In praise of President Obama

Because I focus on economics, and because I don’t agree with Obama on many economic issues, I often end up being critical of his policies.  (Although less critical than most conservatives; for instance I thought Obamacare was mostly a missed opportunity.)  But this WSJ story made me appreciate Obama’s cool, cerebral style:

Tuesday’s coordinated terrorist attacks in Brussels have left at least 30 people dead and more than 200 wounded, shut down the capital of Europe and raised security alarms from Frankfurt to London to New York. (See above.) So maybe it’s time we all get over our inordinate fear of Islamist terrorism.

Believe it or not, that’s the not-so-subliminal message we keep hearing from President Obama, even as he condemned the attacks during his visit to Cuba. “Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents and falls in bathtubs do,” reports Jeffrey Goldberg in a lengthy profile of the President’s national-security thinking in the Atlantic magazine. Islamic State, Mr. Obama is quoted as telling adviser Valerie Jarrett, is “not coming here to chop our heads off.”

When I first started to closely follow public affairs (in the 1970s), right-wingers seemed more rational, whereas the left frequently seemed to ignore cold hard logic, as when considering the costs and benefits of EPA or OSHA regulations.  The WSJ editorial page would tell us “Yes, this EPA regulation will save 15 lives, but at a cost of 3 billion dollars.  Not worth it.”  Now things almost seem to have reversed.  Now conservatives increasingly seem to rely on the “reptilian brain” (and a leading GOP candidate who will not be named (to avoid a horror show in the comment section) seems to rely on almost nothing but his reptilian brain.)

Some commenters will tell me that even if (objectively) terrorism is not a big problem for the West, fear of terrorism creates bad policies.  I agree, but that fear is fixed in quantity.  Triple the annual number of deaths from terror, or cut them by 2/3rds, and it has no effect on the level of fear.  (Perhaps there is a homeopathy analogy here.)  America has had almost no problem with Islamic terror in the past decade (just two sizable attacks in the US, AFAIK), and yet the hysteria is just as bad as ever.  Jet travel is 10 times safer than in the 1960s, but people are just as terrified of flying as in the 1960s.  I feel safer in a car, in my reptilian brain, even though my rational side knows I’m in much more danger.

So while terrorism leads to bad things like NSA overreach, and the Keystone cops antics of the TSA, we can’t prevent that problem by stopping terrorist attacks.  We’ll never get the attacks down to zero, meaning we’ll always be petrified of terror.  Our brains want to be terrified; if it’s not one thing, it will be another.  In the 1950s it was the Cold War.

After I wrote this, Tyler Cowen directed me to some data on the amount of terrorism in Europe.  Notice that as more Muslims have moved to Europe, the rate of terrorism seems to have declined:

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.48.26 AM

Even if you just focus on Islamic terrorism, which can strike unexpectedly at any place, the 1980s were worse than the 1990s, the 2000s, or the 2010s.  And yet the fear is greater than ever.

When I was young, I recall WWII vets saying that Vietnam was no big deal; the death toll was barely a 10th of WWII. And the Iraq War’s death toll for Americans was less than a 10th of Vietnam.  Yet many pundits viewed Iraq as America’s greatest foreign policy disaster.  Each year, unnecessary deaths bother us more than they did the year before. This trend has been going on for decades, and will continue until some huge catastrophe once again makes us numb to massive death totals.

I hope we keep becoming softer.

PS.  I just noticed that David Henderson also has a post praising Obama, very much worth reading.  I wonder if Obama will end up being like Clinton, where (after the fact) we realize that things could have been much worse, and eventually did become much worse.  Let’s hope not.

PPS.  To say that terrorism is not now a major problem in America or Europe, is not the same as saying it’s a problem to be ignored.  It’s quite possible that it will become a major problem in the future.  I’m agnostic on the proper response to ISIS, for example.

 

 

 


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170 Responses to “In praise of President Obama”

  1. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    24. March 2016 at 14:21

    Scott, I think you misattribute Obama’s rightness here. Obama is right to not get too excited about Islamic terrorist attacks, but not for the right reason. If this were, say, a domestic shooting, he’d be flipping out and going nuts and talking of how horrible things were and the need for action, while the right would be saying, ‘hold on, calm down, look at the stats, gun violence is actually down in recent decades.’ Gun owners vote Republican, that means it’s in Republicans’ interests to combat hysteria about mass-shootings. Muslims and people sympathetic with Palestinians vote Democrat, which means it’s in Democrats’ interests to combat hysteria over Muslims.

    It’s purely interests. If a Republican responds rationally to an Islamic terrorist attack or a Democrat to a domestic mass shooting, then it’s ‘cerebral calmness.’ The other way around though, it’s just knowing one’s base.

  2. Gravatar of Lawrence D’Anna Lawrence D'Anna
    24. March 2016 at 14:42

    ” (and a leading GOP candidate who will not be named (to avoid a horror show in the comment section) seems to rely on almost nothing but his reptilian brain.)”

    Almost. He uses his fancy primate brain to think of effective ways to manipulate everyone else’s reptilian brain.

  3. Gravatar of Rajat Sood Rajat Sood
    24. March 2016 at 15:01

    I wonder whether the current fears partly stem from two factors: (1) the recent IS attacks in the West are not as focused on military personnel (like the IRA) and (2) IS doesn’t have an easily discernible or comprehensible motive, other than the vague ambition of creating a global caliphate. Maybe terrorism creates less fear when it is associated with a civil war/separatist movement.

  4. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    24. March 2016 at 15:04

    [Duplicate comment with regular name]

    I wonder whether the current fears partly stem from two factors: (1) the recent IS attacks in the West are not as focused on military personnel (like the IRA) and (2) IS doesn’t have an easily discernible or comprehensible motive, other than the vague ambition of creating a global caliphate. Maybe terrorism creates less fear when it is associated with a civil war/separatist movement.

  5. Gravatar of Matt Moore Matt Moore
    24. March 2016 at 15:04

    From conversation with people from Northern Ireland, I can emphatically tell you that fear of terrorism is not fixed. During the worst days of the Troubles, regular bomb attacks, threats and hoaxes made everyday life extremely difficult and stressful. The surrounding halo of lawlessness and violence stretched far further.

    Since the (quite astonishing) success of the peace agreement – which is responsible for most of the decline – there are still occasional attacks, but the fear is all but gone.

    Note that this strategy requires an extensive and continuing campaign of terror against a concentrated population. So I guess I’m saying that fear might be fixed over some low proportion, but it rapidly escalates after a certain point. Islamic terrorism capability against the West hasn’t reached that level. However, since it is essentially now a native subculture, there is also a worry about a small risk of rapid growth.

    Therefore, both terror capability and terror impact have significant economies of scale. It pays to keep it very small.

    Like climate change, it’s a small-ish risk of a big disaster that deserves investment in mitigation.

  6. Gravatar of psummers psummers
    24. March 2016 at 15:14

    “Yet many pundits viewed Iraq as America’s greatest foreign policy disaster.”

    AFAIK, none of the — entirely valid, IMHO — reasons for taking that view involve the American death toll, either in absolute numbers or relative to past wars. If you want to argue that this wasn’t at least one of our greatest disasters, you’ll have to to better than that.

    Apart from that, nice post!
    PS

  7. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    24. March 2016 at 15:14

    Nice post Scott. It’s funny that when I agree with you you seem to do your best posts. Huh… I wonder why that is? 😉

    “Now conservatives increasingly seem to rely on the “reptilian brain” (and a leading GOP candidate who will not be named (to avoid a horror show in the comment section) seems to rely on almost nothing but his reptilian brain.)”

    Here’s a simple hypothesis to explain the evidence: this unnamed politician may only have a reptilian brain? But as reptilian brains go, it’s one of the best.

  8. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    24. March 2016 at 15:17

    BTW, has Egmont shown up yet? 😀

  9. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    24. March 2016 at 15:30

    I knew that Obama was ignorant but I never thought he was that ignorant.

    First of all his position is terribly inconsistent. We know quite well that he goes totally nuts after every mass shooting that has no Islamic background. So the least thing you would expect is that he goes totally nuts after Islamic terrorist attacks also.

    You would expect that he goes even more nuts, because it’s one thing when a random crazy guy commits a mass shooting, it’s another thing when there’s a whole network with a political agenda and a strict ideology.

    Second of all his position is totally ignorant. We know quite well that Islamic terrorists want to kill as many Western people as possible. From the recent groups of Brussels and Paris we know for example that those terrorists tried to get radioactive material from nuclear power plants and other facilities. They won’t stop trying.

    And know we have to read that Obama, the leader of the Western world, is more worried about car accidents and fallings in the bathtub than about dirty bombs.

    I’m actually very worried now. I never thought the situation was that bad. Until know I thought Obama was at least in this point more or less reasonable. But if the article in the WSJ is true I was wrong, terribly wrong.

    Is there a little hope that Hillary won’t be that ignorant?

  10. Gravatar of Derivs Derivs
    24. March 2016 at 15:36

    Bringing up Obama… Surprised no comment on Argentina. Seems like Macri is running on turbo to get the country lined up in a much better direction.

  11. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    24. March 2016 at 15:40

    Like Tom said, this is one of my favorite Sumner posts too. Couldn’t be because he’s praising a POTUS I like a lot…

    I do think there is truth in the idea that often people don’t appreciate what they have till it’s gone. I wrote a post myself today funny enough where I argued that those who call Obama a radical leftist have no idea what radical leftism is.

    http://lastmenandovermen.blogspot.com/2016/03/no-obama-is-no-radical-leftist.html

    I’m not hoping for it, but the rise of Trump and Sanders shows us how much worse things can get. My guess is the only way to stop the rise of the more European style Right and Left is to do something about wages. There have been a lot of jobs created the last few years but they don’t pay enough.

  12. Gravatar of TylerG TylerG
    24. March 2016 at 15:43

    I think Mark just nailed it. I remember back in 2011 when Obama blamed unemployment on ATMs and self-checkout machines. He probably knew better than to blame productivity enhancing innovations but that’s his political base. That being said, I agree Obama is certainly more cerebral and pragmatic than any of the candidates we’re likely to get in the WH for the next 4 years.

  13. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    24. March 2016 at 15:53


    America has had almost no problem with Islamic terror in the past decade (just two sizable attacks in the US, AFAIK), and yet the hysteria is just as bad as ever.

    I think your argument is wrong. The hysteria got A LOT worse after 9-11. There was nearly no hysteria before 9-11. Prevent 9-11 and there’s nearly no hysteria.

    And why did 9-11 happen? Because may Western agencies und politicians totally underestimated Islamic terrorism. So you say there was an overreach after 9-11? That’s fine with me. Overreach is a normal human reaction.


    This trend has been going on for decades, and will continue until some huge catastrophe once again makes us numb to massive death totals.

    I think something else plays a role here. Medicine got a lot better. Especially vaccines and antibiotics got a lot better but they really took off only after WW2. Before the age of vaccines and antibiotics many young people died of diseases. You got a simple Erysipelas for example and before the age of antibiotics you had terrible 50:50 chance at best.

    This changed heavily. Young people – and by “young” I mean all people under 65 – hardly die off diseases anymore. Nearly the only risk left for young people are accidents and homicides.

    So those people focus on accidents and homicides now. I think this is the main reason why all those statistics declined. People won’t tolerate crime and terrorism anymore. And that’s a good thing.

  14. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 15:55

    “We’ll never get the attacks down to zero, meaning we’ll always be petrified of terror.”

    -Disagree. Gun attacks are less scary than bomb attacks are less scary than airplane hijackings.

    “Even if you just focus on Islamic terrorism, which can strike unexpectedly at any place, the 1980s were worse than the 1990s, the 2000s, or the 2010s.”

    -Not true. The Arab terrorists of the time were generally Arab Nationalists, not Islamists. Islam was not the motive for these attacks.

    “To say that terrorism is not now a major problem in America or Europe”

    -It causes flight delays and lots of petty annoyances.

    @Mike, if you haven’t noticed real wages have risen pretty strongly in the last five years. This whole “stagnant wages” meme needs to end, or at least put into perspective. Trump is not rising because of the stagnant wages under Reagan.

  15. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 15:59

    “We know quite well that he goes totally nuts after every mass shooting that has no Islamic background.”

    -Exactly, Christian. The thought process here is pretty inconsistent, and may well be quite scary. Mark is right on, too. Besides that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama planned both the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks himself (though leaving a bomb unexploded seems to be blatant amateurism).

    @psummers

    -What are you talking about.

  16. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    24. March 2016 at 16:04

    Excellent blogging.

    Iraq was a huge foreign policy disaster, possibly only topped by Vietnam. A reasonable question is why Obama has persisted in propping up Islamic narco-state puppets in Afghanistan for eight years.

    Moreover, like his predecessors, Obama has spent about $1 trillion dollars a year on “national security”—the DOD, the VA, the DHS, black budget, debt service.

    Still, compared to his predecessor and do his possible successors, Obama towers like the Colossus of Rhodes.

  17. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 16:06

    “Still, compared to his predecessor and do his possible successors, Obama towers like the Colossus of Rhodes.”

    -Sure. At press. There are five thousand U.S. troops in Iraq today. They don’t seem to be doing anything.

  18. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    24. March 2016 at 16:07

    @E. Harding, you don’t have to convince Mike about Trump: like me, he’s fully supporting Trump… …in the primary. (He even has a “Make America Great Again!” hat and T-shirt… and he wears both in public!.

    In fact he’s the one that convinced me to be a primary election Trump supporter.

  19. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 16:08

    Also, if you include Eastern Europe, the picture for Islamic terrorism will look a lot different.

  20. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 16:09

    @Tom Brown

    -Doesn’t Mike think a Clinton victory is inevitable given a Trump nomination? I certainly don’t agree.

  21. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    24. March 2016 at 16:13

    @E. Harding, … yes, of course. Mike is a big Clinton supporter. For me, I just want to see the GOP damaged as much as possible. I like Scott’s idea of bringing back the Whigs.

  22. Gravatar of JonathanH JonathanH
    24. March 2016 at 16:16

    That chart you’ve got up there is really interesting. I was born in the early 80s so I don’t remember all the terrorism from that decade. It sure looks like it has decreased over time.

    My grandfather often talked about war time deaths and made the same comment that there are way fewer deaths now than in WW2 and he didn’t know what all the fuss was. “You got to go in with overwhelming force and win it” is what he would espouse. It always sounded extreme to me at the time, but I don’t trust my opinions at all on war and foreign policy.

  23. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    24. March 2016 at 16:17


    Besides that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama planned both the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks himself

    Sorry when I don’t get some of your jokes at all.

  24. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 16:23

    Christian, that wasn’t a joke. Obama and Erdogan have been directly responsible for the rise of the Islamic State, and know it. The only question is how far their involvement goes. I give it a 30% chance Obama planned the Paris attacks.

  25. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 16:33

    BTW, McCain finally admits it: he is a neocon Communist sympathizer:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/opinion/john-mccain-salute-to-a-communist.html

    These neocons are useless except sucking up to Jewish Bolshevists and ex-Bolshevist Jews.

    Franco turned Spain into a first-world country. Caplan describes the activities of the Communists in Spain well.

    http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/spain.htm

  26. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    24. March 2016 at 16:39

    Sure, when Muslims of recent immigrant descent launch political terror attacks against Western secular-judeo-christian European whites, Obama will downplay and steer attention away and quiet it as much as he can and bend over backwards to celebrate Muslims and immigrants as noble victims.

    When, the political ethno religious groups are reversed, say during the Dylan Roof atrocity, Obama will hype it for maximum drama, make personal appearances, actually break out in song with public displays of calculated melodrama, and trumpet it to the moon. Sure, it’s far, far more rare for a western white male to indiscriminately kill blacks for political reasons in today’s world, and statistically this is an even more obscurely rare event, but that doesn’t stop massive nation wide campaigns and dramatic rhetoric to ban Confederate flags and shame any sympathizers. You don’t see the massive investment into shaming “Confederate-phobia” as the left does with Islamaphobia. Quite the opposite.

    This is quite blatant hypocrisy for obvious political purposes. Obama and his coalition are building Muslims as a demographic ally and the whites and christians are marked as the villains and heels (wrestling reference) that have goods and resources to pass out for political favor. How Sumner doesn’t recognize this is baffling.

    Sumner is arguing that Islamic terror isn’t so bad because body counts are low compared to traffic accidents and such. Would you make the same argument for the KKK? Were they really not that bad because their fatality count was generally only a couple thousand over their entire lifespan? I would say the KKK was worse than its death count because it successfully terrorized large groups of people. Today’s Islamic terror is similar. Look at how European police in many cities often openly tell Jews that they need to hide their Jewishness and not wear public symbols of Judaism because the Islamic hatred of Jews is so pervasive and the police can’t practically provide basic safety and protection in public. Jews are being terrorized across France and Europe, cemeteries and symbolic targets are routinely desecrated. Jews are losing very basic safeties and respects and are being pressured to flee. That isn’t captured in simple body count figures.

    Also, the Boston Marathon bombing only killed 3 civilians, but injured 264, including many very serious injuries involving permanent limb amputation and disfigurement. Only counting fatalities or comparing terror injuries, to say, sporting injuries, really isn’t reasonable. Or consider event the people that attended the Marathon but not injured. Of course those people will feel deep fear and distrust.

  27. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    24. March 2016 at 16:52

    @E. Harding: I thought I had you figured out: a Trump supporter (but not a full on Trump Kool Aid drinker), a nationalist (perhaps a bit of a white nationalist), and otherwise fairly reasonable. But then you write this…

    “I give it a 30% chance Obama planned the Paris attacks.”

    (+_+)

    I never figured you for a conspiracy theorist… even 30% of a conspiracy theorist.

  28. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    24. March 2016 at 16:56

    E. Harding I do like Trump though I support Hillary. I’m going to vote for Hillary but I’d rather Trump than a Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, or Bernie Sanders for that matter.

    How can I not love a guy who called George W. Bush a liar right to Jeb’s entitled, pompous face?

    I do differ with you on wages. There are a lot of jobs created the last few years but mostly in the service sector. Lot of folks working for minimum wage or just a little more.

    If people’s wages aren’t stagnant they sure don’t know that is all I can tell you.

    I do think there are similarities between the Bernie supporters and Trump supporters. A reader of my blog today suggested that the difference is that the Trump supporters are angry older white folks but the Bernie supporters are angry young white folks. Sort of the kids/grandkids of the Trump supporters.

    But while I want Hillary I’d vote for Trump before Bernie. There’s something about Bernie’s sanctimony and self-righteousness that really gets under my skin. I’m a liberal, I’m not a socialist.

    I disagree very strongly with a lot of things Trump says-about immigrants, Muslims,etc. But I do kind of like his brash style, the way he steps all over sacred cows. He’s transgressive which is kind of compelling, I find.

  29. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    24. March 2016 at 17:00

    Scott, I think you should encourage Egmont to come comment here. It could only improve things…

  30. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    24. March 2016 at 17:10

    Overall, E. Harding, I think Trump is one of those guys that either you like him or you just hate him. A lot of people can’t stand the guy because of this same style.

    I know this is touchy ground to get on, but it’s a very masculine style. The feminine style is more conformist, and hates to see social norms of politeness, inoffensiveness,, etc. trampled on.

    While I do like Obama very much, the one thing he ever said that I take issue was when he said that if he had a son today he wouldn’t let him play football-it’s too dangerous.

    That to me is one thing I’m not so sure I like about the direction society is going in. I’m a liberal and believe in progress, but I’m kind of ambivalent about this aspect where society no longer tolerates any aggressive pursuits.

    And for me Trump is interesting as he’s a dinosaur. He’s the last gasp of an old school. He had at one point said that football is getting too weak now…

    Maybe he’s the last case we’ll ever have of someone so willing to tramp all over polite society like this in politics.

    So Trump is also for me a kind of raging against the dying of the night.

    Like take the latest Trump-Cruz spat. It’s absurd, yes, but man, this is just so caveman where the two are bringing the wives in, etc. I’m not saying this is good but when will we ever see anything like it again?

  31. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    24. March 2016 at 17:12

    “Bringing up Obama… Surprised no comment on Argentina. Seems like Macri is running on turbo to get the country lined up in a much better direction.”
    People used to say the same about the Kirchner couple after they cleaned up the Menem mess. And Menem, ah, Menem, he was a reconstructed Peronist, the mature leader who was retiring the tired populist rhetoric, wanted special relations with America, wanted Argentina to be part of NATO (do not ask me how it would work geographically speaking), was making free market reforms. Before that, it was the military and minister Martínez de Hoz. Argentina’s best days are in the (simple) past and in the conditional and always will be. And nearer to home, we had Collor (the young men who was doing free market reforms, cutting the budget and breaking the old politicians hold on the state– well, he was impeached for obscene levels of corruption), Cardoso (the former leftist intellectual who got free market reformers and allied with the remnant of the military regime’s political machine), Lula, the sensible leftist, Dilma, the pragmatic manager, etc. After the rightwing “free-market reforms”,the coutry was poorer than it had been before, which handed the left the power. Now, after 13 years of leftists in charge (also allied with the remnant of the old military regime machine), the four top office holders can be deposed and get jail time.
    The one reason (non-Chilean) Latin American politicians still exist is to illustrate the greater fool theory. There always will be fools ready to buy “reformist” Latin American politicians (in a sense, buying politicians makes sense, but never mind)… until they blow everything up. And the game begins again. Break the vicious circle: just say no! If you ignore them, maybe they go away.

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. March 2016 at 17:16

    Rajat, Yes, I thought the same.

    Matt, I agree that when there are sudden changes, it is noticeable. But when changes occur gradually over time, then people get used to it.

    Parents today are more frightened of their children playing outside than in the 1970s, even though crime is lower.

    psummers, You said:

    “If you want to argue that this wasn’t at least one of our greatest disasters”

    No I do not (although our involvement in WWI was 100 times worse). But the death toll was a big part of why the Iraq War was viewed as a massive mistake.

    Tom, You said:

    “Nice post Scott. It’s funny that when I agree with you you seem to do your best posts.”

    This shows your bias. It’s actually one of my weaker posts. The fact that you thought otherwise shows what politics does to a person’s judgment.

    But thanks anyway. :)

    Derivs, I hope he does well, the previous government was pathetic.

    Mike Sax, See my response to Tom.

    Tyler, Yes, Obama is horrible when it comes to economics, just clueless.

    E. Harding, You said:

    “Islam was not the motive for these [1980s] attacks.”

    It really hard to say what the motive is today (with ISIS and Al Qaeda). The terrorists themselves insist it’s in revenge for our involvement in the the Middle East. Not saying you are wrong, just that motives are complex.

    Ben, WWI was far worse than either of them, a complete disaster which led to WWII.

    Tom, You said:

    “I like Scott’s idea of bringing back the Whigs.”

    Even Lindsey Graham has given up on the Republican Party. Today he said maybe they should nominate no one, just start over as a party.

    Jonathan, You said:

    “but I don’t trust my opinions at all on war and foreign policy.”

    Likewise, I have no idea what our foreign policy should be.

    Christian, Those comments by Harding are not jokes. Remember, he supports Trump. Trump wasn’t joking when he said the IRS went after him for being such a strong Christian. These people are not joking, they are actually insane.

    Read this on Trump’s foreign policy team:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/433187/donald-trumps-foreign-policy-advisers-skeptical-reviews

    Massimo, I agree that when blacks and Jews are singled out and terrorized it is a whole different level of problem. I was referring to the US, or European groups who are not singled out, like the unfortunate victims in Brussels.

    Again, terrorism is a problem, but it’s a far smaller problem in the West then the lack of a market for kidney transplants.

    Is it possible that tomorrow I’ll be proved wrong, say if the terrorists get a nuke? Absolutely. I’m just describing the current situation.

  33. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    24. March 2016 at 17:19

    Ok. last thing on Trump. For those who can’t get enough Trump talk, checkout Scott Adams, the Dilbert comic strip guy.

    He argues that Trump is this ‘master persuader’ that basically hypnotizes the public. He has literally wrote tons of posts about Trump going back to July, which incidentally was about when I became a Trump Democrat.

    http://blog.dilbert.com/

  34. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 17:27

    “Lot of folks working for minimum wage or just a little more.”

    -Mike, the minimum wage is less important today than in the 1970s:

    https://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/how-high-would-a-federal-minimum-wage-have-to-be-to-cause-mass-unemployment/

    and even if the percentage of workers earning minimum wage hasn’t sunk as fast as it should, that’s due to low nominal wage growth, not real. The real AHETPI series has experienced a steep rise in the past five years. Real labor compensation per worker, however, hasn’t. The former is what’s usually trotted out to back the “stagnant real wages” argument.

    “How can I not love a guy who called George W. Bush a liar right to Jeb’s entitled, pompous face?”

    -:-) Yup. I’m no fan of George, either, though I think Trump called for withdrawal of troops from Iraq prematurely (though from the perspective of the time, it was easy for the unsophisticated observer to conclude a premature withdrawal was the right thing to do).

    What do you like about Hillary? She seems like just another establishment politician, if a little worse than Obama.

    I support the temporary Muslim immigration/temporary entry visa ban, even though I thought that was a stupid idea back in early December.

  35. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 17:40

    I agree this is one of S. Sumner’s weaker posts.

    “Again, terrorism is a problem, but it’s a far smaller problem in the West then the lack of a market for kidney transplants.”

    -Well, it’s certainly a smaller problem in the West than idiot deer and the flu in terms of pure human lives prematurely ended. But there are other relevant terms one can reasonably think in in this case.

    “The terrorists themselves insist it’s in revenge for our involvement in the the Middle East.”

    -So that’s why ISIS killed all those Yazidis. If you haven’t noticed, the IS frames its posture as offensive, not defensive.

    “Even Lindsey Graham has given up on the Republican Party.”

    -Why didn’t he say that in, say, 2008, when it ran an overt Commie sympathizer for Prez?

    “Trump wasn’t joking when he said the IRS went after him for being such a strong Christian.”

    -Sumner, that may well have been a blatant lie by Trump. Though he might be telling the truth; I dunno. I’d have to be him to tell.

    “These people are not joking, they are actually insane.”

    -Not insane, not joking, 100% serious.

    If the terrorists get a nuke, it’ll probably have been due to some kind of state sponsorship.

  36. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 17:46

    “The feminine style is more conformist, and hates to see social norms of politeness, inoffensiveness,, etc. trampled on.”

    -Agreed. Which is why it’s the female, not the Hispanic, vote which is Trump’s biggest potential liability come the general election. No 19th Amendment; no Obama second term.

    “While I do like Obama very much, the one thing he ever said that I take issue was when he said that if he had a son today he wouldn’t let him play football-it’s too dangerous.”

    -Why? Football is dangerous, and a perfect way to rot the intellect.

  37. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    24. March 2016 at 17:49

    “Mike, the minimum wage is less important today than in the 1970s:.”

    My argument is not primarily about the MW but rather median wages. Wages need to rise-there are other ways to do this than raising the MW at least in theory

    That was a slip up of Trump there in saying wages are too high. He might have been arguing against the MW but he said wages are too high. If you’re running for POTUS you don’t want to be running on cutting voters wages.

  38. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 17:53

    “Read this on Trump’s foreign policy team:”

    -Shows how much the same establishment that supported the events that resulted in the planting of the Islamic State in Iraq and Libya (if not Syria), as well as the degradation of U.S.-Russia relations is worth. It refuses to offer any of its most prominent yahoos to Trump, so Trump has to go with a few lesser-known ones. Cruz has way too many yahoos, both establishment and non-establishment. He’s a WorldNetDaily conservative.

  39. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 17:58

    @Mike

    Again, look at the real AHETPI series:

    https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=3WMC

    It rose this decade. And the last decade. And the decade before that. It’s not completely stagnant.

    And though Trump was dangerously (and, accidentally, refreshingly) honest about wages, his way of presenting it (as necessary to restore competitiveness with China) is not a totally disastrous one.

    Why do you like Clinton?

  40. Gravatar of Dan W. Dan W.
    24. March 2016 at 18:02

    Apparently Hillary Clinton’s answer is that Americans must indiscriminately let in Muslim immigrants and then accept increased government surveillance of all Americans to “keep us safe”.

    Personally I do not think this is a good deal for Americans.

    If the government wants me to believe that terrorism is not a problem then it needs to stop acting as if terrorism is a problem. Let’s eliminate the TSA. Let’s eliminate regulations on cash transactions. Let us have LIBERTY!

    But no. The government is afraid of something because it does not want Americans to be free of its surveillance. So I find Sumner’s and Henderson’s praise of Obama not very well thought out. For if Obama truly believed terrorism was not a threat he would instruct the government to not treat Americans as if they are a threat to the government.

  41. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 18:10

    Invade the world, invite the world, surveil the world, in hock to the world. Sailer’s truly a great guy coming up with these quips. Also, good point in your last paragraph, Dan W.

  42. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    24. March 2016 at 18:15

    Dear commenters,

    If you haven’t seen it, this Scott Alexander post provides essential insight on this topic:

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/03/04/a-thrivesurvive-theory-of-the-political-spectrum

  43. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 18:21

    Agreed, Travis. BTW, there seems to be a sharp difference between supporters of Trump and Cruz. Just look at Utah&Maine v. Arizona&Massachusetts.

  44. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    24. March 2016 at 18:44

    Harding: wages have certainly been pretty flat in this recession.

    “Again, look at the real AHETPI series:”

    Does this measure average or median wages?

    As for Hillary, I like her for a lot of reasons. I’ve always liked her since 1992, I’ve always been a centrist liberal Democrat. Her policies mostly line up very well with my preferences.

    The truth is Trump has always liked her pretty well himself…

  45. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    24. March 2016 at 18:47

    Great post Scott.

    This graph has shown up in various places and news in the past few days, which is good, finally a bit of sanity in this discussion.

    I personally remember a good amount of grief in the late 70s to early 80s in European terror. There was Baader Meinhof, Brigade Rosse and the PLO to hijack and bomb, not to mention Italian fascists (Bologna – just like the Madrid, London and Brussels attacks). Later, Gaddhafi took out at least 2 entire airliners. Gaddhafi btw has always mixed islam into his nationalism. And long before 9/11, Europe had much more massive airline security measures while in the US people could still literally walk into an airplane and book and pay on board. People have a short memory.

    Some more thoughts, loosely connected to commenters such as

    List, Harding:

    Obama is more upset about random shootings than about terror shootings in the US? Well it’s because random shootings kill a lot more people on average than terror shootings (in the US). They are also endogenous to the US and as a result the US is in many ways more responsible for them than for terrorism. Random shootings are a cultural US problem in the same way as islamic terrorism is a cultural Middle East problem. Each of them can only be solved by the cultures that created them.

    Corollary, islamic terrorism can only be effectively tackled by muslims themselves. Western countries must get much better at integrating their own muslim communities in the fight against terror, the way for instance Singapore does it. This is why the nationalist responses in the US and Europe are so damaging and counterproductive. You get the best intel by the community itself. That is, unless you keep alienating them.

    Now, airliner incidents, e.g., terrify people emotionally, for sure. But remember also that some of the largest loss of life in airliner incidents in the last 2 years were caused by (a) a suicidal pilot (Germanwings) (b) a civil war related air defense shootdown (Ukraine) (c) possibly a suicidal pilot, again (MH370). That is, for comparison, well over 600 (!!!) avoidable, terrifying, non-accidents, yet non-terror related deaths to compare to the death toll from the terrorism database.

    BTW here we have a great irony too. ISIS and related organizations are not an existential threat to the US or the West. Not militarily for sure. And ideologically (in influencing, say, Europe’s muslims) it is a far stretch too. After all, these muslims are running towards Europe, they are running away from the alternative “model” of a society they have at home. They’re also running towards Germany, not Russia, which in itself is telling of their preferred model.

    So islamic terrorism is not brought about by a state actor with a state’s resources. It is also not a mass movement. Now compare this to the power of state actors like Russia. Russia can do existential damage to the West and is running not-so-subtle destabilization campaigns against Europe. But that hardly ever makes the news, especially not in the US. If you read German, try this:
    http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/fluechtlingskrise/putin-manipuliert-gezielte-medienkampagne-gegen-deutschland-14117555.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2

    So if there’s anything that scares me a bit about Obama right now is that he’s too sure that he’s right, and too condescending towards Russia. Enraging Russia by calling it a local actor and other belittling remarks are not the way to go. The un-named candidate is far worse of course on this, he’s only obsessing about the much lesser threat and plans on chumming up to the far greater potential one.

  46. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    24. March 2016 at 18:57

    ssumner: “Again, terrorism is a problem, but it’s a far smaller problem in the West then the lack of a market for kidney transplants.”

    This isn’t exactly an anomaly though. What do people worry about? Terrorists, guys in white vans kidnapping their children, mad cow disease, and serial killers, all the while talking on their cell phones while driving, eating undercooked meat, and carelessly mixing medication with alcohol.

    I am fairly sure that most of the major ‘issues’ people worry about, from terrorism to police brutality (or brutality against police), etc., have gotten less common during the time period over which the actual magnitude of each of these ‘issues’ was declining.

    If one could quantify public fear, I think it would only occasionally be found to correlate with the acuteness of whatever is being feared – and half the time, it would correlate negatively.

  47. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. March 2016 at 18:59

    mbka, I should just have you do my political posts, your comments are far better.

  48. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    24. March 2016 at 18:59

    Damn, I screwed up my third paragraph. Redo:

    *I am fairly sure that most of the major ‘issues’ people worry about, from terrorism to police brutality (or brutality against police), etc., have gotten less common during the time period over which the public concern and media coverage of each of these ‘issues’ has been increasing.

  49. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    24. March 2016 at 19:08

    mbka: “They are also endogenous to the US and as a result the US is in many ways more responsible for them than for terrorism. Random shootings are a cultural US problem in the same way as islamic terrorism is a cultural Middle East problem. Each of them can only be solved by the cultures that created them.”
    This is simply not true.

    See the table from the link:
    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/jun/22/barack-obama/barack-obama-correct-mass-killings-dont-happen-oth/

    Norway, Finland, and Switzerland all lead the US in victims and fatalities per 100,000 people from mass shootings, and two of those coutnries af highly restrictive gun laws. Sorry, but Obama’s typical response to mass shootings is not a rational response when taking the statistics into consideration.

  50. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 19:18

    “Well it’s because random shootings kill a lot more people on average than terror shootings (in the US).”
    Indeed (though not necessarily random):
    http://www.unz.com/akarlin/guns-murders-blacks/

    “Corollary, islamic terrorism can only be effectively tackled by muslims themselves.”

    -Which is why the temporary Muslim arrival ban is a really good idea.

    “After all, these muslims are running towards Europe, they are running away from the alternative “model” of a society they have at home.”

    -They’re running away, for the most part, not from the Islamic State, but from Assad’s bombing campaigns. Raqqa’s population is much larger than it was before the war.

    “They’re also running towards Germany, not Russia, which in itself is telling of their preferred model.”

    -Their preferred model is the one that gives them the most welfare money. Russia is not that model. It hands out welfare money, sure, but it goes to veterans and retirees, not foreigners.

    “You get the best intel by the community itself.”

    -Which is why Palestinian terror is now largely a lone wolf effort: Israel’s too good at infiltrating organized networks.

    “Russia can do existential damage to the West”

    -Only with its nuclear weapons.

    “Enraging Russia by calling it a local actor and other belittling remarks are not the way to go.”

    -Russia is enraged by blatantly hypocritical Western violations of the rules of the game (e.g., Libya, Ukromaidan, the Obama Syria strategy). It is not enraged by Western underestimations of its abilities; in fact, just the opposite. Obama knows what he did and what Russia did in return; just like Putin, he decided backing his preferred party in Ukraine was worth it, despite the local human cost.

    “The un-named candidate is far worse of course on this, he’s only obsessing about the much lesser threat and plans on chumming up to the far greater potential one.”

    -How is that not a good thing?

    BTW, to keep Sumner up at night:

    http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2009/11/ChangeDemocracy220px.png

  51. Gravatar of Laura S. Laura S.
    24. March 2016 at 19:21

    Scott,

    Terrorism collapsed because most terrorism in the West was sponsored by the Soviets. No more Soviet money, no more terrorism… for a while at least. The IRA was responsible for the other large part of terrorism in Europe, and the IRA Ceasefire in ’94 did a good step to stop that sealed by the Good Friday Agreement in ’98.

  52. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 19:26

    @Mark

    -Disingenuous; the U.S. had an order of magnitude more mass shootings than the next highest country. Most of Norway’s recent mass shooting deaths were due to one militant right-winger.

  53. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. March 2016 at 19:28

    “mbka, I should just have you do my political posts, your comments are far better.”

    -Sumner; I don’t see it. I think you have a far superior mind to mbka, who strawmanned and insulted me.

  54. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    24. March 2016 at 20:05

    Of course the vast majority of the earlier “terror attacks” were IRA and Basque separatist movements. Which highlights two problems: one, the proper way to understand the risk of terror is to understand the political motives of the groups perpetrating the attacks. Two, “terror” is a label ascribed to attacks where the political motive is viewed as illegitimate.

    It is silly beyond words to study terror, statistically, as if attacks are chosen from a Poisson distribution. Attacks occur according to the political objectives of the group, and the technical capabilities of that group. And a separatist movement has very different objectives than a theocratic supremacist movement. And willfully importing members of a theocratic supremacist movement is foolish.

    Of course I think you already know this as you tacitly admit the argument is wrong in your response: “Is it possible that tomorrow I’ll be proved wrong, say if the terrorists get a nuke? Absolutely.”

  55. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    24. March 2016 at 20:12

    “Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns”

    Quotes like this make Obama look like a partisan hack. Most gun deaths are suicides, followed by gang and drug violence. Mass shootings by crazy people are uncomfortably high, but quite low compared to accidents.

    More interestingly, Japan has a higher rate of (gun+suicide) violence than America, despite the fact that Japan has no private gun ownership. Clearly there are cultural factors at play, and mortality should be understood in that context.

    Perhaps Japan needs a self-esteem movement. One possible downside: a Japanese Donald Trump.

    Alternately, America could split itself into two countries: one called Gunmerica, and the other, Pillmerica. Then we could see which one kills more people.

  56. Gravatar of ChacoKevy ChacoKevy
    24. March 2016 at 20:33

    @mbka “Obama is more upset about random shootings than about terror shootings in the US? Well it’s because random shootings kill a lot more people on average than terror shootings (in the US).”
    I don’t disagree for a moment about anything you stated, I just think it’s simpler. Obama gets his course of action combating ISIS et al., so of course he’ll be more comfortable with the ups and downs. On the other hand, he feels stymied in being able to carry out his preferred course of action for gun control. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him get frustrated. There isn’t any emotional asymmetry.

  57. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    24. March 2016 at 20:57

    E.Harding: “Disingenuous; the U.S. had an order of magnitude more mass shootings than the next highest country. Most of Norway’s recent mass shooting deaths were due to one militant right-winger.”
    Cite?

    ChacoKevy: “I don’t disagree for a moment about anything you stated, I just think it’s simpler. Obama gets his course of action combating ISIS et al., so of course he’ll be more comfortable with the ups and downs. On the other hand, he feels stymied in being able to carry out his preferred course of action for gun control. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him get frustrated. There isn’t any emotional asymmetry.”
    I think it’s even simpler still. Politically, panic over terrorism favors Republicans, so it’s in his interest to downplay it. Panic over mass shootings favors the Democrats (per gun control), so it’s in his interest to upplay that. Even if both terrorism and shootings are trending downward.

    And comparative incidence is, imo, beside the point. On gun violence, as on poverty or sexual violence, Obama will readily talk of crises and epidemic even as the phenomenon of interest is in decline. Whither his cerebral calmness? He may be in his second term, but his legacy still largely depends on his successors, and even more so if he’s a true believer does he have a bested interest in campaigning for whomever that successor may be.

    I really don’t think personal sentiment has too much to do with it at all. It’s interests, interests, interests. Too much time, effort, money, strategic planning, and expert consultation goes into crafting every one of a president’s speeches, imo, for much of anything as frivolous as the president’s own personal feelings to creep through over the bigger picture.

  58. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    24. March 2016 at 21:05

    Scott,

    thanks, I’m not sure if I’m any good but I have now reached the moment in politics that you reached in monetary economics in 2008, where you you just can’t take it anymore to read what some people write.

    Mark,

    as Harding pointed out, at least Norway’s score in that table WAS due to politically motivated mass killings = terror. Not random mass shootings by the deranged. And noting that Finland and Switzerland have some of Europe’s highest rates of gun ownership, their high numbers may relate to the US numbers for a good reason – similar causes.

    Harding,

    in virtually any comment of yours, you’re dishing out insults at entire groups of people. These groups collectively make up some 80% of the planet. Muslims, Chinese, Africans, and Indians, you have no good to say of any of these, with hand waving collective insults. Yet you’ve got nil personal experience with those you insult, by your own admission. You put out grand theories about Africa for example, yet you’ve never been there, you said so yourself. And you pontificate about limiting immigration, yet you are an immigrant yourself. And now you go all sensitive because I call you up on things that you actually said, as an individual? Should we go back to PC now all of a sudden, because YOU are hurting? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I am not blanket insulting entire unknown populations as you do. I take issue with specific blind spots of yours that you have brought up yourself. You may be a good person for all I know. But I can’t let your statements stand.

    Steve,

    I do buy your line of thought actually. We may fall for the availability heuristic in judging random mass shootings so prominently. In reality, suicides and gangland crime cause many more deaths than random mass shootings. Hey, even the police seems to kill more people than random shooters (upwards of 600/year in the US).

  59. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    24. March 2016 at 22:18

    The decline in terrorism in Europe has a simple reason — the Soviet Union collapsed. Therefore, there was (1) no existent alternative to capitalism and (2) there was no hostile superpower providing various forms of support (often via proxies) for terrorism in Europe. So, terrorism sourced from within the local population declined dramatically.

    Islamic terrorism is overwhelming concentrated in Islamic countries. The sad implication of that is that the larger your local Islamic population, the larger the risk of terrorist happenings. The immediate implication, however, is that terrorism is largely restricted to a relatively small minority, so Europe experiences less terrorism than previously.

    And I would be more impressed with Obama’s sangfroid if he was statistically consistent about it.

    I would also be more impressed if it did not go with the “nothing to do with Islam” nonsense. Yes, the jihadis are a small minority. Yes, there’s is not the only possible interpretation of Islam. But what they do is profoundly rooted in Islam (particularly mainstream Sunni Islam). Pretending those tendencies are not there will not make them go away. While part of the problem is that the technological capacities of our time make possible dangers greater (though the danger of the jihadis getting hold of a nuclear weapon is remote: if, however, they did, they would use it).

    A useful paper on the very, very small likelihood of nuclear terrorism is here:
    http://politicalscience.osu.edu/faculty/jmueller/apsachgo.pdf

    I would also point out a major difference between Clinton and Obama–Clinton negotiated seriously with the Republican Congress. Obama, not so much. (Clinton’s greater economic literacy may actually have something to do with that.) It is easier to cast your opponent’s as intransigent if you do not offer them much they want.

  60. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    24. March 2016 at 22:29

    If ISIS’ claim of deploying 400 suicide killers into Europe is true, it’s more like an invasion by a guerrilla force than the kind of terrorism we have been seeing in recent decades.

    I, too, am unsure of the correct response. The Europeans will not be able to go undefeated in a continent wide game of whack-a-mujahideen. We’ll probably end up going into Syria and Iraq with more Europeans this time to crush ISIS. But the last time we did that we opened Pandora’s box.

  61. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    25. March 2016 at 01:41

    “We’ll probably end up going into Syria and Iraq with more Europeans this time to crush ISIS.”

    There was a chance to weaken/crush ISIS?

    ‘The “spymaster” of a key moderate Syrian rebel group has accused the CIA of failing to act on reams of detailed intelligence his network has been supplying the US on Isil since 2013 – including GPS coordinates of its leaders and headquarters.
    The Free Syrian Army’s spy chief insisted proper use of the intelligence his agents provided from within Isil’s ranks, and often at grave risk to their life, could have critically damaged the jihadist group on several occasions.
    Speaking to Le Monde in Turkey, “M”, as the French newspaper dubbed the man for security reasons, said: “From the moment Daesh (the Arab acronym for Isil) had 20 members to when it had 20,000, we have shown everything to the Americans. When we asked them what they did with this information, they always gave evasive answers, saying it was up to their decision-makers”. ‘
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/12195131/Syrian-moderate-rebel-spymaster-slams-CIA-for-ignoring-detailed-intel-on-Isil-since-2013.html

  62. Gravatar of AIG AIG
    25. March 2016 at 02:00

    An economist who doesn’t acknowledge different types of uncertainties and the behavior they induce?

    Ok.

    I’m pretty sure however many people die in bath tubs, it does not pose the same uncertainty or risk to me as terrorism. I happen not to be 95 year old, or 2 year old.

    But as others have said here, your praise of Mr. Obama is unfounded. If this had been an even rarer event, like a mass shooting (although only if by a white guy), he’d be decrying it as reason for a massive government program.

    So you’re making only an ideological argument, as he is, not one based on “facts”.

    Sorry, this is what passes for “cerebral”?

    Hey guys, the Japanese ONLY killed 2,400 people in Pearl Harbor. More people die from falls every year than that. So it’s nothing to worry about, because mathematically its only a small problem!

    See what I did there? Except the difference being that…stairs…aren’t intentionally out to kill you. Hirohito was.

  63. Gravatar of AIG AIG
    25. March 2016 at 02:04

    PS: Now of course you’re right in the over-reaction by the right. But, then again, the over-reaction is not a function of the number of people killed. Its in the assessment of the risk of how capable ISIS is in carrying out its…intentions.

    Intentions, are the difference here. And their ability to do good on those. They may be over-reacting, but they may not be. Some chart form Tyler Cowen (dear lord) on the number of deaths is about as helpful in figuring out if its over-reaction or not…as reading some tween’s tweet on twitter.

  64. Gravatar of Daniel Daniel
    25. March 2016 at 02:17

    This is the biggest steaming pile of disingenuous bullsh*t ever.

    The numbers are pretty clear. The more muslims descending from the territories of the Abbasid/Umayyad empire you have, the more terror attacks you have.

    But since more people drown in their bathtubs, we should let in those inbred violent morons by the millions.

    Yup, sounds perfectly reasonable.

  65. Gravatar of derivs derivs
    25. March 2016 at 03:08

    “mbka, who strawmanned and insulted me.”

    I spit my coffee out all over the table reading that, some came through my nose. You have got to be kidding. Harding, that’s you joking, correct?

  66. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    25. March 2016 at 05:22

    This is the biggest steaming pile of disingenuous bullsh*t ever.

    What it is is an indicator of what the priorities of contemporary faculty libertarians are, and around whom they are embarrassed. Very unlike Milton Friedman or Richard Epstein. What college provosts have managed to do is breed and maintain a small population of faux-dissidents on their faculties, while real dissidents like John McAdams and M.S. Adams are harassed and fired (and confined to the older age groups anyway). Irritated dissidents ca. 1990 complained that Yevgeny Tevtuschenko and Andrei Voznesensky filled this niche in Soviet Russia ca. 1975 and that the western journalists who interviewed them and reviewed their books were clueless about it.

    Consider Sumner’s formulation: ‘reasonable courtesy > PC > no PC at all”. What’s ‘no PC at all’ once you’ve deducted activities which are common crimes (and have had discrete non-sectarian definitions for decades if not centuries) and common-and-garden torts (fuzzier, but requiring negotiation and adjudication)? It’s simply the portfolio of utterances Sumner might object to in contradistinction to utterances one of the clown car denizens at Trinity College of Duke University might object to. Since faculty libertarians are vocational capons, their definition isn’t going to be controlling. The formulation is a useful parry in the GMU rathskellar, but otherwise humbug.

  67. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    25. March 2016 at 06:24

    Congrats to Laura and Lorenzo, for noticing the big drop off in the chart coincides with the disappearance of the Soviet Union. The KGB was behind much of the terrorism back in the day. Including the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, and much of the PLO’s mischief. Carlos the Jackal was a Marxist (named by his parents, ‘Vladimir Illych’) who was shielded for a time in East Germany.

    Also, Obama is now in Argentina apologizing for any assistance we gave to that country in its 1970s fight against the Montonero guerillas who were trained and supported by KGB client, Cuba.

    So much for our ‘inordinate fear of communism’.

  68. Gravatar of Friday assorted links – Marginal REVOLUTION Friday assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION
    25. March 2016 at 07:05

    […] 6. “Notice that as more Muslims have moved to Europe, the rate of terrorism seems to have declined&#8230…“ […]

  69. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    25. March 2016 at 07:12

    Patrick, Laura and Lorenzo,

    The even bigger irony is that contemporary Russia seems to be encouraging much of the EU dissent and various nationalist sentiments in Europe. See FAZ article I linked to above. In the past, the Soviets used the European left wing for their purposes, now Russia is using the European right wing to sow discontent in the West. Brexit would be a godsend for their strategy. The British are the strongest link Europe has to the US. Get the British out of Europe and you’re half way there getting the US out of Europe. Of course the unnamed candidate would be even better, he’d have the US leave Europe for free, no further effort needed. All the while the right wing goes hysterical over islamic extremism, which unlike Russia’s play is not a sustained, focused, or long term strategic threat. More like a collateral nuisance.

    Mind you I don’t think Russia created any of this, the Brexit campaign, European nationalists, the unnamed Rep. candidate, but they’re using it effectively.

  70. Gravatar of Adam Adam
    25. March 2016 at 07:41

    It’s not just terror. It’s any risk that we feel we don’t control. Driving is okay, despite being among the most dangerous things any of us do, because we’re the one holding the wheel. Our brains can’t really comprehend the probabilities anyway.

    But terror we don’t have any control over. Same with crime generally. “Don’t go into the city, there’s crime there.” Okay, sure, there’s some, but your probability of being a victim of random crime is still lower than you probability of crashing your car on the way there. Nonetheless, it’s outside your control, so it’s scary (see also, carrying a gun for personal protection, which offers an illusion of control).

  71. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    25. March 2016 at 08:26

    Mark, look at the Politifact link you pointed to. Look at the table closely.

    dervis, no joke. Look at

    http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=31573#comment-594077

    “And now you go all sensitive because I call you up on things that you actually said”

    -Nope. You called me up on things I pretty clearly said the opposite of.

    “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I am not blanket insulting entire unknown populations as you do.”

    -But you are strawmanning and insulting an actual person talking to you.

    “The even bigger irony is that contemporary Russia seems to be encouraging much of the EU dissent and various nationalist sentiments in Europe.”

    -Very good. The E.U. clearly isn’t worth much if it can be so easily subverted by a certain German politician.

    “The British are the strongest link Europe has to the US. Get the British out of Europe and you’re half way there getting the US out of Europe.”

    -Except those U.S. troops in Germany and Italy.

    “Of course the unnamed candidate would be even better, he’d have the US leave Europe for free, no further effort needed.”

    -Great!

    “All the while the right wing goes hysterical over islamic extremism, which unlike Russia’s play is not a sustained, focused, or long term strategic threat.”

    -Islamist terrorists have killed far more Americans in recent years than Russia has.

    @Postkey

    -I was pointing out the U.S.-ISIS alliance as early as May 2014, and was getting worried about something like this ever since the Nusra capture of Raqqa three years ago. This is just another cherry on top of the already huge pie of evidence that Obama re-created the Islamic State from scratch.

    “I, too, am unsure of the correct response.”

    -Temporary shutdown of all Muslims entering into anywhere in the E.U. other than maybe Bulgaria until we can find out what’s going on. Also, greater surveillance of Moroccans and better intelligence-sharing. War on Turkey, or at least a complete mandatory shutdown of its border, is also advisable.

  72. Gravatar of Phil Phil
    25. March 2016 at 08:30

    There’s an additional factor that needs to be considered in the death toll statistics you base part of your argument upon: trauma care has advanced quite dramatically in recent decades, dropping death rates from both criminal battery and mass casualty incidents. I think it would be more appropriate to count severe injuries including those that lead to death, rather than just death.

  73. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    25. March 2016 at 08:59

    Okay, sure, there’s some, but your probability of being a victim of random crime is still lower than you probability of crashing your car on the way there.

    Fatal auto accidents number about 32,000 per annum, whereas homicides number 16,000. Auto fatalities are most common in exurban zones where you’re more likely to have speed conjoined to two-lane traffic (and, seasonally, to be driving in the interstices between plough runs). Drive along some state route in New York and you see these crosses by the side of the road. It’s very disconcerting. You can reduce your chances of an auto fatality by not driving recklessly, not driving drunk, and having that seat belt on. The principal way ordinary people have of reducing their vulnerability to homicides is to stay out of sketchy areas. It’s difficult to get along without an automobile because the distribution of commercial enterprise assumes its presence. There’s not much reason to travel through slums if you do not know anyone there; they don’t have much commercial enterprise and aren’t likely to have anything for sale you cannot get elsewhere except street drugs and cheap whores.

    Short of fatality or injury, it’s really much more disconcerting to be mugged than to have a car crash.

  74. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    25. March 2016 at 09:03

    Egad, yet another Sumner idiocy. Does he ever get anything right? It’s well known to *competent* economists that you have to adjust numbers to a baseline. In the 1980s, the crime rate was much higher than it is today, so more terrorism was ‘no big deal’. By contrast, today crime rates are back to where they were in the 1950s, and you have to correct for that. Folks, this is econometrics 101, and Sumner doesn’t get it?

  75. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    25. March 2016 at 09:05

    As for Hillary, I like her for a lot of reasons. I’ve always liked her since 1992, I’ve always been a centrist liberal Democrat. Her policies mostly line up very well with my preferences.

    Ya think Billy R Dale likes her? How about the Secret Service agents who had to confer as to the point at which they had to intervene to protect the President from his wife?

  76. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    25. March 2016 at 09:11

    Still, compared to his predecessor and do his possible successors, Obama towers like the Colossus of Rhodes.

    Your Colossus of Rhodes gets memoranda from his staff with three options. He checks an option and writes some inane marginalia. Your Colossus of Rhodes puts political hacks in charge of the National Security staff and submits decisions to Valerie Jarrett for approval. Your Colossus of Rhodes gave you the Iran deal. Your Colossus of Rhotes put a pr flack in charge of the European Bureau of the State Department. The culture fostered by your Colossus of Rhodes gave you Lois Lerner on the one hand and State Department rush chairman Marie Harf on the other.

  77. Gravatar of sourcreamus sourcreamus
    25. March 2016 at 09:12

    Obama is right about the relative dangers but he is still stupid for saying it because he is in charge of protecting the country from terrorism. Gun violence is mostly the responsibility of local police departments and staying upright in the shower is on me. However, only the Federal government can coordinate enough resources to protect the country from the thousands of terrorists who want to kill us all.
    I don’t want the guy in charge of maintaining a passenger airplane to tell me that statistically dying in a plane crash is no big deal and that he spends most of his time worrying about the passengers cardiac health.
    The only good thing about that article is now I worry less about a Trump presidency because if this country can survive the current arrogant dilettante than maybe we can survive another one.

  78. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    25. March 2016 at 09:13

    Parents today are more frightened of their children playing outside than in the 1970s, even though crime is lower.

    Crime is less frequent. Not so the population of your neighbors who will report you to the police or child protective and not so the population of social workers in child protective who will take that complaint seriously.

  79. Gravatar of Tom Tom
    25. March 2016 at 09:52

    It appears no one pointed out that the risk is endogenous. The government can take specific steps to reduce the risk of a terrorist attack. Therefore, a small number of attacks can be attributed to prevention triumphing over attempts or fewer attempts. Remember, low interest rates are a sign that monetary policy has been too tight…

    Similarly, the bathtub does not try to kill you. If one area puts up a lot of barriers to terrorist attacks and one area does not, but both are the “enemy”, then we would expect more attacks in the least cost (from the terrorist’s viewpoint) area. Bringing up deaths from a large N times small p process that is not in the government’s purview is a non-sequitur.

  80. Gravatar of Tom Tom
    25. March 2016 at 09:55

    Clarifying “large N, small p.” Nearly everyone is exposed to a bathroom or automobile (large N) and has a small probability of dying, this is an actuarial outcome. Only a small number of people are exposed to a terrorist attack due to endogeneity (since it depends on who the terrorist wants to attack, which is governed by the cost-benefit of various targets).

  81. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    25. March 2016 at 10:25

    -Except those U.S. troops in Germany and Italy.

    Last I checked, there were about 67,000 U.S. troops in Germany and Italy (summed). The number of billets is a fraction of what it was in 1968.

  82. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    25. March 2016 at 10:38

    mbka: “Steve,
    I do buy your line of thought actually. We may fall for the availability heuristic in judging random mass shootings so prominently. In reality, suicides and gangland crime cause many more deaths than random mass shootings. Hey, even the police seems to kill more people than random shooters (upwards of 600/year in the US).”
    But gangland crime and suicide are not as sexy or politically useful for anyone, so we’re not like to see many Presidents delivering emotional or hysterical speeches about those things, which goes back to my point, that what Obama or any politician decides to get excited about is motivated by immediate political interests, and whatever the frequency of the phenomenon at hand, it remains the increasing concern among Democrats over gun violence (and the increased news coverage of gun violence) has in fact been following a decline, not a rise, in gun violence. If such concern is rational, we may as well declare it rational if some politician, just now, decided to start wring his hands over Ebola and trying to win votes by promising to do things about it.

    And I would not I was only using gun violence as an example. Take the whole ‘campus rape crisis’ as another, which the administration has described in the language of epidemic and crisis… even though it’s at an all time low and sexual assault is actually less common on campus than off. Or parties’ handwringing over police-related violence. Police-committed homicides have also trended downwards even as publicity and political interest has intensified. So too have on the job deaths and injuries of police officers.

  83. Gravatar of Steven Kopits Steven Kopits
    25. March 2016 at 11:59

    The graph is incorrectly interpreted.

    Scott, you write: “Notice that as more Muslims have moved to Europe, the rate of terrorism seems to have declined”

    This is dead wrong.

    The overwhelming number of terrorists acts in the UK from 1970 to 1994 were related to the IRA, which had nothing to do with Muslims in any respect. There were a few attacks by Islamic terrorist prior to 2005, mostly specifically directed at Israeli or Jewish targets. An exception is the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, but this was not specifically directed at British targets.

    Since 2005, Wikipedia records 10 terrorist acts in the UK, of which 8 were perpetrated by Islamic terrorists.

    The overwhelming numbers of terrorist attacks in Spain were associated with ETA, again nothing to do with Muslims. Wikipedia records two Islamic terrorist attacks: The Descanso attack killed 18 in 1985. The Madrid train bombing of 2004 killed 192 and injured more than 1800.

    A large portion of attacks in Italy were linked to the Mafia or fascist factions. An exception to these was the Rome airport bombing of 1973 and 1985 Rome and Vienna airport attacks. These were carried out by the PLO, some of it specifically directed El Al and other Israeli interests. There have been no notable Islamic attacks in Italy recently.

    In Germany, the vast majority of terrorist acts were conducted by the Red Army faction or fascist groups. Germany has seen two Islamist attacks since 2011. The previous Islam-linked event occurred in 1986, 30 years ago.

    France has a long history of Islamic terrorism. Wikipedia records 20 Islamic attacks since 1958. Of these, five occurred in 2015 alone, constituting well over half of all French deaths from Islamic terrorism.

    Wikipedia records three Islamic terrorist events in Belgium, one in 1981, and the other two in the last two years. The last attack was by far the worst terrorist event in the last 50 years.

    If you actually look at the historical record, it clearly shows exactly the opposite of your thesis. Islamic terrorism has become much worse in Europe, particularly since 2005 (if we include Spain, 2004), with 2015 and 2016 historically bad years for the continent.

  84. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    25. March 2016 at 12:07

    Steven Kopitz,

    The sooner you realize Sumner is a left wing progressive, the sooner you’ll realize the source of the loony things he says.

  85. Gravatar of Steven Kopits Steven Kopits
    25. March 2016 at 12:09

    Major –

    This is not an issue of ideology. It is a matter of accounting.

  86. Gravatar of AIG AIG
    25. March 2016 at 12:29

    “Obama is right about the relative dangers but he is still stupid for saying it because he is in charge of protecting the country from terrorism.”

    Yep. This is like an elevator inspector saying “Sure guys. 10 elevators have crashed in the last year under my watch and killed 100 people. But 100 people die every hour from heart attacks! So what’s the big deal?”

    This would be called dereliction of duty. Not “cerebral”.

  87. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    25. March 2016 at 12:53

    Very good posts by Patrick R. Sullivan, Daniel, Ray, Steven Kopits, Tom and especially sourcreamus.

    I spilled my tea a few times because I enjoyed those comments so much.

    Things I learnt from Obama and ssumner in this post: Islamic terrorism is totally harmless but oh boy those bathtubs are out there to kill me.

    And I don’t even use bathtubs. I shower.

  88. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    25. March 2016 at 13:01

    @Steven Kopits

    This is not an issue of ideology. It is a matter of accounting.

    Accounting is an issue of ideology – maybe today more than ever before. Your interpretation of the numbers seems right. But ssumner might not admit it because his ideology is different. And his different ideology tends to lead him to a different interpretation.

  89. Gravatar of Paul Paul
    25. March 2016 at 14:18

    Interesting that the ISIS atrocities in the Middle East don’t get counted here. Likewise the spread of ISIS affiliates across the globe.

    Sort of like Stalin looking at Hitler’s conquest of Western Europe and saying, well, USSR wartime deaths are way down in early 1941 compared to the Russian civil war of 1917-22. Look at that downward trend comrades!

  90. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. March 2016 at 14:22

    Lorenzo, If we were to generalize, would it make more sense to generalize in the direction of “Arab” or “Arab plus a few other ethnic groups in the Afghan/Pakistan area”, than “Islamic terror”. I don’t think many Americans worry about Iranian or Turkish or Indonesian or Bangladeshi or Indian or Malaysian or Albanian terrorists attacking us. Not to say those countries don’t have some terrorism, they do, but the big issue is Arab terrorism isn’t it? And aren’t Arabs only about 20% of the Muslim world?

    Yes, the Boston Bomber was Chechen, but they seemed more like random mass murderers, not an ISIS conspiracy.

    Of course it’s different elsewhere. China worries about Uyghur terrorists, India worries about Pakistani terrorists, and Thailand worries about Malaysian terrorists.

    AIG, I think you missed the point. I mentioned that terrorism might become a huge problem in the future. My point is that it is currently not a major problem in the West. Not compared to things like public policies banning kidney markets, which kill many thousands of innocent people each year. Or the war on drugs. The fact that most people are too ignorant to understand these problems, and rely on the reptilian brains influenced by Fox News, doesn’t mean I have to do the same.

    I’d add the the public policies we’ve used to prevent terrorism have probably killed many more than the terrorists themselves. Not to mention all the inconvenience.

    Steven, You said:

    “This is dead wrong.

    The overwhelming number of terrorists acts in the UK from 1970 to 1994 were related to the IRA, which had nothing to do with Muslims in any respect.”

    Obviously I know that, and just as obviously you missed the point.

  91. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. March 2016 at 14:23

    Paul, ISIS is a big problem in the Middle East, as is the Russian/Assad combo, that killed what, 100,000 people?

  92. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    25. March 2016 at 14:33

    @ssumner

    -Come on, man. This is like saying both Hitler and Stalin were big problems in Europe in 1943. True, but less than irrelevant. Paul makes a good point. Sumner, I think you missed AIG’s point.

  93. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    25. March 2016 at 16:08

    Scott: Yes, Pakistan and Afghanistan are not part of the Arab world while Bangladesh is suffering a campaign of murdering atheist and secularist bloggers. So that complicates the “but it’s the Arabs …” As of course do the Islamic insurgencies in Mindanao, southern Thailand …

    (And, as the Rotherham scandal showed, there may be other issues with South Asian Muslims.)

    Moreover, one really can’t say “Arab” because Arab Christians are not a problem. (When the Soviet Union was still with us, Palestinian terrorism included some Arab Christians: nowadays, not so much.)

    Arab Islam is particularly prone to jihadism, probably because state-identity is less able to compete (as is currently obvious, there is not much of an over-arching Iraqi or Syrian or Libyan or whatever identity). As an Egyptian diplomat famously opined, there is only one nation in the Arab world, all the rest are tribes with flags.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribes_with_Flags. Possibly also because Arab Muslims may be more inclined to add a sense of master race/culture (the people of the Prophet speaking the language of revelation) to master belief.

    If one wanted a statistically based immigration policy, let in Middle Eastern Christians and Jews plus Druze, Ismailis, Ibadis, Alevis, Alawites, Ahmadis and Shi’a. Take a good hard look at any mainstream Sunnis, particularly Arab Sunnis.

  94. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    25. March 2016 at 17:03

    To explain, minority Muslim groups have experienced being treated badly by Sunni majority, so are much more likely to find the West a welcome change and be sceptical of Sunni rantings.

    Druze are not Muslims, while Alawites are not regarded as Muslim by most Sunni (or even some Shi’a). Aḥmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), who are lot of agitated Sunni’s like to cite (he was responding to the shock of the Mongol invasions–far, far more traumatic for Islam than the Levantine Crusades*) issued a fatwa saying it was fine to kill Alawites. Hence the Alawites of Syria will not agree to anything that puts them at the mercy of the Sunni majority in Syria–Iraq providing a nasty example of what happens when a former dominant minority (Arab Sunnis) are subject to democratic domination by a majority (Arab Shia in that case).

    In Pakistan, it is law that Ahmadis are not Muslims (when an Ahmadi mosque was subject to an arson attack in London, a lot of Muslim news outlets referred to it as “a temple” or “place of worship” since only real Muslims go to a mosque).

    Also, largely due to the concept of the Imanate, any strain of Shi’a is not as boxed in to C7th literalism as is mainstream Sunni Islam. Which is the problem with mainstream Sunni Islam–it finds it very hard to escape from treating C7th Arabia as the peak of social understanding due to it being largely boxed in to a literalist interpretation of the Quran, the al-sira (life of Muhammad) and hadiths (words and actions of Muhammad).

    Sufis (the mystical strain in Islam) are a mixed bag, so you can’t really generalise. Though they and the Salafis generally hate each other.

    The historical analogies are not comforting. The Jews constantly revolted against Rome (the only subject people who did) because they were periodically homicidally outraged that the law of the pagan idolatrous Romans over-rode God’s Law. But they were dealing with the Romans, who were prepared to massacre, deport, enslave and mass crucify until the Jews got the message (or there were no more Jews). So, armed with the example of the Babylonian Captivity, and helped by all the priests having been massacred, the rabbis re-interpreted God’s Law so it could be followed while being ruled by non-followers of said Law. Rabbinical Judaism is a rather different beast than priestly Yahwehism.

    Europe weaned itself off political theology because over a century of massacring each other for religious reasons generated a reaction of horror and exhaustion. But Christianity had always accepted that law was human and that there was a realm of morality beyond revelation. (Especially after Aquinas merged Christianity and Aristotelianism.) While the Scientific Revolution provided a shining new path to knowledge. Folk who say Islam needs a Reformation are mostly wrong-headed, what it needs is an Enlightenment.

    Thanks to the triumph of al-Ghazali (1058-1111) in anathematising Aristotelian ethics and metaphysics, mainstream Sunni Islam does not accept that there is any grounding of morality beyond revelation.** Which leaves Shar’ia — the law of the Sovereign of the Universe, which applies everywhere (you may not be interested in Shar’ia but Shar’ia is interested in you)–to be discovered by fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) from the only authoritative sources (the Quran, the al-sira and the hadiths).

    Hence the jihadis say that democracy is anathema–it illegitimately arrogates to itself the legislative power that belongs only to God. So democracy is tyrannical (illegitimate authority) and injustice (since only Shar’ia provides justice).

    The Islamic State’s self-proclaimed Caliph has a Ph.D. in fiqh from the University of Baghdad.

    Awkwardly, most Muslims want to live under democratic rule. But Islam doesn’t really do “different but equal”, particularly not mainstream Sunni Islam.

    So, things won’t really get better until mainstream Sunni Islam wrestles seriously with the deadweight of the peak of human social understanding being C7th Arabia. And if Jewish or Christian European history is anything to go by, that’s going to come out of a whole lot of killing.

    * There were also crusading in Spain (against Saracens), the Baltic region (against pagan Prussians and Lithuanians) and southern France (against heretical Cathars, aka the Albigensian Crusade).

    ** Al-Ghazali also denied that there was any inherent causal structure of the universe, just the habits of God acting constantly. (Not a great place to rest to maintain or expand the status and claims of science.) “If God wills it” is not merely a pious form, it is also an underlying metaphysical claim.

  95. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    25. March 2016 at 17:08

    Oh, and letting in large numbers of single males without kin or other social connection to the country they are now residing in is just stupid, no matter which culture they come from. Though some cultures (notably North African Islam) have an aggravating effect.
    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/367/1589/657

  96. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    25. March 2016 at 19:02

    Harding,

    I left tit for tat in Kindergarten so I won’t engage in it here.

    Lorenzo,

    erudite analysis, simple and well known conclusion, but it’s not that simple. Islam and the Arab world were past that already in the 50’s to 70’s roughly. There was a reaction and regression after that. There had already been secularism under Islam. Its largest empire, the Ottomans, had started it. Islam’s intellectual center of gravity, Egypt, wasn’t particularly islamist for the longest time. Conversely, one of the worst regressions away from secularism happened in Iran which had until 1979 been most secularist and economically developed. What saved Europe btw wasn’t altogether the softening of the religious factions, it was keeping them out of politics – secularism. Wherever this didn’t work, see IRA, Europe retained the same problem, nationalism with underlying religious sectarianism.

    And as usual, it is not a good idea to paint all Arabs / Muslims / Iranians with the same brush. Even today large swathes of the above people are secular. Example, I have yet to meet an Iranian that’s actually religious. The most religious people I’ve met in my life were American christians.

    Young single males in concentration are a problem of course. But if you entertain, just for a moment, the proposition that the migration crisis in Europe really is a refugee crisis, it makes sense that families would send away their young males first, right? They’re young, strong, energetic, and most likely to get drafted or murdered back home. That’s why they run in the first place. What would you tell your 15 year old boy under such circumstances? Just imagine it’s you and your family. The answer isn’t that hard.

    Much else of the comments section is people getting facts from the internet and putting them into a blender. Then they pour the fact-sauce over their own preconceived opinions as decoration.

  97. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    25. March 2016 at 19:47

    mbka

    You need to read more Islamic history. Within Sunni Islam in particular, there are three broad tendencies: modernisers (“these infidels have some useful ideas, we should adapt them to our purposes”), reformers (“we need to go back to original Islam”) and traditionalists (Islam as an inherited/culturally transmitted religion).

    Yes, there was a strong modernising trend in the Islamic Middle East from the early C19th to around 1980. It manifested in some promising manifestations (such as the push to Ottoman constitutionalism). They (almost all) ended being abortive, failing in one sense of other. But there was a similar modernising trend in, for example, classical Islam that also ended up being abortive (notably in the defeat of Aristotelianism).

    The other response was the reformist response of religious revival; notably the Deobandis, Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood (which, operationally, has a modernist element to it). The impulse they represent has been surging in effectiveness, in part because of the failures of the secularist-modernist impulse. They also represent a perennial pattern in Islamic history.

    The longer term pattern in Islamic history is simple: the modernisers lose, the reformers win (temporarily) and the traditionalists have the numbers. It is not at all clear that that pattern will not repeat itself. Especially within Sunni Islam.

    A petit example is that the only campaign of violence that has ever worked for the Palestinians is the First Intifada. It had a necessary element for success–Yassir Arafat had nothing to do with it. That Intifada created a network of modernising activists who looked set to create a proto-Palestinian state of some effectiveness. Arafat returned and promptly set about dismantling what they had built in favour of the client-patronage networks he could manipulate. Hence the religious-reformism of Hamas gaining ground (so much so, that the Palestinian Authority refuses to hold an election, as Hamas would win).

    And it is not religion per se which is the issue, it is the content of the religion and the moral sensibility it generates. Most Swedes are not believing Lutherans, but centuries of Lutheranism has affected Swedish moral sensibility. 1400 years of Islam has affected Middle Eastern moral sensibility.

    As for the reasons to send single males: yes. But that does not mean it is not a stupid idea to accept large numbers of single males all at once with no kin or social connections to the society they are residing in. That remains a stupid idea, no matter what motivates said males to come.

    As for Iranians; (1) those who have left for the West are unlikely to be the most pious (2) theocratic rule has, indeed, done wonders for undermining piety among Iranians in general, (3) Iranians are Shi’a and I already pointed out that they are not the same level of problem and (4) Iran is a nation, not a tribe with a flag.

    As my entire comment was about differentiating between different strains of Islam and different Middle Eastern groups, obviously I agree about not over-generalising. Nevertheless, particular groups do manifest particular tendencies.

  98. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    25. March 2016 at 19:49

    @mbka

    Much else of the comments section is people getting facts from the internet and putting them into a blender. Then they pour the fact-sauce over their own preconceived opinions as decoration.

    And you stand above all that and got it all figured out. How arrogant can one person be?

    You wrote at least two times already that there’s basically a right-wing Russian conspiracy going on in Europe. And that this imaginative conspiracy worries you more than Islamic terrorism.

    And in another post you wrote that Realpolitik is basically an invention by Willy Brandt (“Entspannungspolitik”) when in fact most Germans (including historians worldwide) would say that Bismarck invented the German version of Realpolitik around 100 years earlier. That’s just you being at least 100 years off. Brandt didn’t even invent Entspannungspolitik. Kennedy did in 1963. That’s nine years earlier than Brandt.

    And that’s just two examples. So much to your blended fact-sauce for your preconceived opinions.

  99. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    25. March 2016 at 19:49

    That should be: 1400 years of Islam has affected Middle Eastern moral sensibilities.

  100. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    25. March 2016 at 20:19

    Obviously Obama doesn’t really believe what he is telling everyone else (though it is probably wise of him to say it anyway). He bears large responsibility for the “NSA overreach”, whose purpose is clearly to monitor all American Muslims for signs of radicalization (the polite term for wanting to practice Islam the way Muhammad himself did), and nonMuslims as well to avert suspicion in case of a leak (which had to occur eventually). Terrorism is the boiling over effect of a given level of radicalization, so in that sense Obama is right that with the current proportion of radicalized Muslims in the West America should be more afraid of cars and bathtubs. But that can easily change, which is why the “War on Terror” is largely an information and political sentiment war. I refuse to believe his overseeing of the brutal foreign policy he conducts, drone strikes (that largely hit nontargets), mass domestic surveillance, and probably still some hushed up torture, is done without a real appreciation of the way that the world order can tip over very rapidly. But it doesn’t help if everyone keeps panicking about it, or if Donald Trump incites open hatred of all Muslims.

    With Iraq, I think it can fairly be said that it was more overtly wasteful than the other two. It seems to people like getting involved to defeat Hitler was a valuable thing, and that the cost of empowering Soviets wasn’t as bad; similarly that the Vietnam War might have turned out positively the way that the Korean War did. Further analysis might change those opinions, but it wasn’t the obvious public hoodwink that Iraq was.

  101. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    25. March 2016 at 20:36

    Lorenzo, I’d say even Ottoman Islam was relatively quite modern, treatment of women was significantly better then for instance, probably even better than the West at one point. And Muslims knew who was at the head of the worldwide brotherhood, and who could legitimately call for Jihad: it was the Sultan. With the collapse of that Empire, and the rise of Wahhabi-like influence in the Gulf mid-century, the secularization of the Muslim world which had been slowly occurring for ages was reversed, and the relatively secular dictators of the region had to start finding ways to make concessions to fundamentalist Islam or be destroyed by it. In just a few generations there was a dramatic reversal of ordinary Muslims’ attitudes to their own religion. The process was maybe staved off for those migrating to the west, but even today families here are shocked when a child rejects the older, more circumscribed understanding of the religion of their parents’ generation and gets sucked in to fundamentalist revivalism, as the internet convinces them that other Muslims don’t genuinely take their religion seriously.

  102. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    25. March 2016 at 23:29

    Saturos: The Ottoman Empire also had lots of non-Muslims in it, which provided a social counterweight and an avenue for modernisation.

    Of course, under stress, what did the Ottoman Empire also produce? The Hamidian massacres of the 1890s, and the Armenian genocide, the Assyrian genocide and the Pontic-Greek genocide during the Great War. All targeted at prominent non-Muslim groups.

    That first Jews and now Christians have been leaving the Middle East also helps make Islamic identity more salient. (Arab nationalism had a lot of Christians involved, because it made a non-religious identity more salient.)

    As for post-Ottoman events, I broadly agree with you. Even Turkey is less of an advertisement for secularising modernisation than it used to be.

    One of the signs of the different civilisational dynamics, is that the Pill + expanded education and income opportunities for women led to less religious signalling in the West, as women had less reason to go to Church to signal that they were “good girls”.

    In Islam, the Pill + expanded education and income opportunities for women has led to more religious signalling, via the new veiling movement (which started among educated and job-seeking middle class Muslim women), as the chaperone culture that Sharia’s appalling treatment of rape created for 1300+ years could only be “breached” by signalling that one was a “good girl” by wearing the veil.

    This paper is a useful analysis of the new veiling movement.
    http://www.wiwiss.fu-berlin.de/forschung/veranstaltungen/rse/Past_Programs/Winter_2010_11/RSE-Carvalho.pdf

    I am moderately appalled that the reaction in some quarters in Europe to the issue of sexual assaults by (particularly) North African “refugees” has been to, in effect, recommend re-creating a chaperone culture for women.

  103. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    25. March 2016 at 23:34

    Saturos: actually, you can make an argument that the Vietnam War was far from a complete loss strategically — it gave Thailand in particular time to get its act together.

    And the hoodwink claims about the Iraq War are overdone — a lot of intelligence agencies (not just American ones) thought Saddam had WMDs (after all, he had used them). The real mistake (speaking solely in terms of justification: leaving aside the issues of whether it was a good idea, how it was executed, etc) was not to simply say “he is in serial breach of the ceasefire agreement, so …”.

  104. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    25. March 2016 at 23:41

    Saturos: A point on terminology. Talking of Islamic “radicalisation” is a bit problematic, since “radical” in the West originally implied ardent secularisation. What folk call “radical Islam” is really more like zealot Islam. Australian political science David Martin Jones has a thoughtful discussion here.
    http://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2015/12/zealots-fanatics-radicals-david-martin-jones/

  105. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    26. March 2016 at 00:35

    Lorenzo,

    I am not so sure if reading more past history is all that useful in the context of current events, although I am always happy to learn more. But you are right, rather than from detailed history, my understanding comes more from a lived experience of many years in countries with either Muslim majorities or strong minorities, and having Muslims in my daily life experience basically. That, plus a lot of travel. In my experience modern Muslims often deplore the tendencies towards medieval interpretations, and the suppression of modern interpretations. Either that, or they act completely agnostic or atheist in practice. Rarely have they read or care much about the details of history as deeply as you do. I appreciate that history may still affect sentiment, say, especially in a Middle Eastern Muslim. But in an Indonesian Muslim? a Bangladeshi? So I’d say this is really complicated and with a lot of local influence.

    Much of what else you say, I can agree on, including that one must not sweep under the table the events of Cologne, or the ordinary antisemitism that European Muslims display in many quarters. But alienating the communities isn’t the answer either, because that’s where the policing of extreme elements will have to come from. Not to mention that there are millions of Turks in Germany that haven’t posed an extremist threat for half a century now even though their integration is far from ideal. So extremism isn’t some kind of inexorable future either.

    List,

    And you stand above all that and got it all figured out. How arrogant can one person be?

    After a long time of listening and commenting politely, I finally figured out that a great majority of internet blather really is just uninformed blather even where it looks well-documented. It is using data mainly for decoration. Anyone can find data now, but to make sense of it you need to source broadly, weigh pros and cons and generally consider complexities of a situation. Most commenters just get data and slap them onto their opinion. There is no weighing, no consideration of the possible other side. So most internet comments to me are just a deadweight loss, I read and fight opinions that are less well thought out than my own fallible self. I have reached this conclusion empirically.

    Now, I used to just ignore this. I used to think it’s not worth it getting upset. Then something clicked with the old Hannah Arendt comment – that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. So now, at least, I say something.

    And pls spare me comments on the complicated nature of Hannah Arendt herself and Heidegger etc. I’d use the phrase regardless of the author.

    You wrote at least two times already that there’s basically a right-wing Russian conspiracy going on in Europe. And that this imaginative conspiracy worries you more than Islamic terrorism.

    No I didn’t write that. I said the Russians use various European nationalist movements to their purposes. I documented it with a link to an FAZ article which I presume you are able to read. [For the benefit of the other readers, FAZ is the major German newspaper, with about the prestige and relative breadth of circulation of the New York Times if it were published in America, but with more of the political tendency of the National Review.]. But that would just be one source. Many other observations point in the same direction, there is a fondness for Putin’s Russia in the EU right wing, you can find that anywhere from politician visits to blogger comments. Read any comment section in German speaking media and you’ll find lots of Russia apologists, and others who take them up for it and accuse them of being planted by Russia. Then lately Lavrov’s exploitation of the “Lisa” affair, complete with undermining of the media, and stirring up nationalist sentiment of Russian-Germans. Not cool. So: the FAZ didn’t pluck this out of thin air, and neither did I.

    And yes all the above worries me a lot more than islamic terrorism right now. And it should. Barely days after I chatted with a friend who was fretting about Al Qaeda, MH17 was shot down over Ukraine. That is an airplane I could have easily been sitting in, given my travel patterns.

    As for yourself, in your comments you don’t use a lot of data generally, you just pick comparatively small issues or events out of context and answer them with factoids also ripped out of context. Example, I don’t remember talking about Entspannungspolitik per se. My point was that Angela Merkel’s policies are made of necessity, not choice. The German word often used here is that her policies are “alternativlos” = “without choice”. She put a brave face on it, as she should. Which is why she still has so much support in Germany. I provided evidence on this too (election outcomes) which you ignored. It did not fit your narrative. On Realpolitik if you really want to go back to the origins of the idea you’ll end up straight at Machiavelli.

  106. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    26. March 2016 at 00:44

    @E. Harding

    ‘ A newly-released Hilary Clinton email confirmed that the Obama administration has deliberately provoked the civil war in Syria as the “best way to help Israel.” ‘
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/hillary-clinton-destroy-syria-for-israel-the-best-way-to-help-israel/5515741

  107. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    26. March 2016 at 01:44

    “Saturos: actually, you can make an argument that the Vietnam War was far from a complete loss strategically — it gave Thailand in particular time to get its act together.”

    “Noam Chomsky: Well, I don’t think that Vietnam was a mistake; I think it was a success. This is somewhere where I disagree with just about everyone, including the left, right, friends and so on.
    To determine whether it was a failure you have to first look at what the goals were. . . . In fact it is clear by around 1970, certainly by the time the Pentagon Papers came out, the primary concern was the one that shows up in virtually all intervention: Guatemala, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Chile, just about everywhere you look at. The concern is independent nationalism which is unacceptable in itself because it extricates some part of the world that the US wants to dominate. And it has an extra danger if it is likely to be successful in terms that are likely to be meaningful to others who are suffering from the same conditions.
    You start reading in the Far Eastern Economic Review that this was a pointless enterprise, you guys have basically won so just go home and quit. Why ruin your economy, spoil your situation in the world scene and so on. And they assumed that now that it is destroyed it will sooner or later be absorbed into our system, which is in fact what happened. Well that’s a partial victory not a defeat. The defeat was that they didn’t achieve their maximal goal which was to turn all of Indochina into something like Guatemala or the Philippines, and that they didn’t achieve, but they did achieve their main goal. “
    https://chomsky.info/20050131/

  108. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    26. March 2016 at 02:32

    mbka: Opinion polls show a majority of Muslims support democracy, so clearly there is a lot of sentiment which does seek to embrace the modern world. And the Turks in Germany were largely products of a Turkey where Kemalism was still strong.

    The problem is generally not with a majority of Muslims, the problem is sizeable minority tendencies and intense minorities within that. Movement to the West does not necessarily lead to embracing of modernity: cut off from traditional bufferings, some retreat into an Islamic identity that can lead to zealotry. Hence, unlike essentially any other migrant group, second generation Muslims are often more alienated form their host society than their migrant parents: hence jihadis are often second generation Muslims. The larger your Muslim minority, the larger the zealot minority is likely to be.

    The US, Australia, Canada do not have much of a problem, because their Muslim minorities are small, diverse, relatively highly educated; have had to go through selection procedures and are embedded in societies designed to take migrants and with a wide diversity of migrants.

    Various European countries have much more of a problem because they have never worked out a coherent concept of migration, have very distinctly Muslim but sizeable minorities who were not particularly selected or educated, living in countries which have strong ethnic identities, and who generally regulate their labour markets in ways which more or less guarantee creating alienated underclasses.

    There are also major differences on sex and gender issues which extend beyond “problem minorities”.
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/107512/moral-issues-divide-westerners-from-muslims-west.aspx

    Both Christianity and Islam are going through “back to the origins” revivals. In the case of Christianity, it is Pentecostalism. Globally, an enormous successful social movement that many people never notice because the Pentecostals understanding of going back to Christian origins is intense worship, community building and good works.

    In Islam, it is Salafism and Deobandism, whose “sharp” end wants to go back to the origins of Islam; a deeply imperialist and conquering religion. That folk do notice.

    The content of a religion makes a difference. With Islam, the literal content pulls away from modernity and playing nice with others. So, yes, it is good that many Muslims do not want to embrace the origins of their religion. But, with so many Muslims, having only a small minority who do, still generates the potential for a whole lot of trouble. Trouble that other potential migrant groups to the West don’t generate.

    This collection of hadiths from the two most authoritative collections about sex with captive women are useful reminders of where literalist Islam leads one.
    http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2009/01/sahih-al-bukhari-and-sahih-muslim-on.html
    When ISIS claims that its revival of sex slavery is following the example of the Prophet, the literal evidence is on their side.

    Given that the Quran allows 4 wives (plus “what your right hand [i.e. sword hand] possesses”), if the top 5% of Muslim males have 4 wives each, the bottom 15% of Muslim males have no available believer females. The solution is the normal one for polygynous societies–steal outsider women. In the case of Islam, it is explicitly sanctified by the Prophet and the Quran. That gender dynamic is a major reason (but far from the only one) why Islam, in its first 1000 years, aggressed against every culture and civilisation it came up against, and did so far more than the reverse was the case.

    It is also why the Sudanese regime (surreptitiously) and ISIS (openly) have revived slavery. First, they are literalists. Second they are at war with those they regard as non-Muslims and are using a tried, true, and sanctified method of motivating such aggression. The foreign fighters are just ghazis (holy warriors) with aeroplane tickets. Islam has generated ghazis for most of its history. The question is why it is still generating ghazis: because the motivating doctrines still have power.

    (It is also a reason why Alevis make good potential migrants. They are very proud of their commitment to monogamy.)

    As an aside, traditional China had the same issue, though with concubines rather than wives. Not being in much of position to steal outsider women, their wifeless underclass either continually died out as marginal workers or became the “bandits” which so infest Chinese literature and history.

  109. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. March 2016 at 07:20

    Nice to see some intelligent comments, for a change.

  110. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    26. March 2016 at 07:59

    “best way to help Israel.” ‘

    You could have actually quoted the whole sentence. The whole sentence was, “The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashir Assad”. It kind of kills your point, but the world’s Jew-haters have their story and they’re sticking to it.

  111. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    26. March 2016 at 08:50

    “The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashir Assad”.

    ‘ A newly-released Hilary Clinton email confirmed that the Obama administration has deliberately provoked the civil war in Syria as the “best way to help Israel.” ‘

  112. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    26. March 2016 at 09:02

    “An honest Israeli Jew tells the Real Truth about Israel
    Why did the minority population gain the majority of the land?”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etXAm-OylQQ

  113. Gravatar of Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton
    26. March 2016 at 13:36

    @Postkey Long after he’s dead normal people will look back on Chomsky as exactly what he is: A crackpot cut from the same cloth as Alex Jones whose academic career as a linguist gave his conspiracy theories some gravity. Anyone who thinks the civilized liberal democracies in the west are the greatest evil in the world is nothing but a fifth columnist.

    With respect to the US “provoking” the Syrian Civil War I’ve always been confused by this idea on the left that arabs are the only people incapable of doing anything without being manipulated by the United States. Very condescending and dare I say it racist. Although it most likely comes from the desire to reappropriate responsibility from said arabs and place it with the west.

  114. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    26. March 2016 at 14:55

    With respect to the US “provoking” the Syrian Civil War I’ve always been confused by this idea on the left that arabs are the only people incapable of doing anything without being manipulated by the United States.

    Thomas Sowell offered this 14 years ago:

    Being one-up is so important to some people that it colors the way they see every issue… One of the ways of being one-up is to jump on the bandwagon of the latest fads, like being non-judgmental or supporting multiculturalism and deconstruction. These clever sophistries are the self-indulgences of sheltered and comfortable people.

  115. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    26. March 2016 at 15:01

    “@Postkey Long after he’s dead normal people will look back on Chomsky as exactly what he is: A crackpot cut from the same cloth as Alex Jones whose academic career as a linguist gave his conspiracy theories some gravity.”

    Play the man, not the ball?

  116. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    26. March 2016 at 15:16

    “With respect to the US “provoking” the Syrian Civil War I’ve always been confused by this idea . . . ”

    You’re obviously ‘easily confused’?

  117. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    26. March 2016 at 15:59

    I cannot vouch for everything Postkey says, but I must point out Alexander Hamilton is completely wrong here. Obviously Turkey, Israel, and the United States are behind the Islamic State.

    “With respect to the US “provoking” the Syrian Civil War I’ve always been confused by this idea on the left that arabs are the only people incapable of doing anything without being manipulated by the United States.”

    -So you’re denying U.S. manipulation here? Are you saying the Syrian Civil War and the rise of the Islamic State was independent of U.S. policy? Come on, Alex. Don’t strawman.

  118. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    26. March 2016 at 16:08

    Obviously Turkey, Israel, and the United States are behind the Islamic State.

    Yak yak yhak

  119. Gravatar of Major-Freedom Major-Freedom
    26. March 2016 at 18:28

    “Nice to see some intelligent comments, for a change.”

    In Sumner language “intelligent comments” does not mean closer to the truth based on education of what is true. It just means what Sumner personally prefers.

  120. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    26. March 2016 at 18:35


    I provided evidence on this too (election outcomes) which you ignored.

    You provided no evidence whatsoever. You basically said that Merkel won those elections when in fact she lost them heavily. That’s just an astonishing piece of propaganda work. You should call her and ask if she needs another spokesman.


    you just pick comparatively small issues or events out of context and answer them with factoids also ripped out of context.

    And yes all the above worries me a lot more than islamic terrorism right now. And it should. Barely days after I chatted with a friend who was fretting about Al Qaeda, MH17 was shot down over Ukraine. That is an airplane I could have easily been sitting in, given my travel patterns.

    Oh the irony…

    I won’t even comment on all the other wrong things you said. It’s just a waste of time. Think what you want to think. It’s a free country.

    Just one last thing:

    It’s so funny that guys like you are surprised that Russian-Germans got their own ideas about politics. They watch Putin TV a lot, who would have thought so? Who would have thought that this will cause huge problems?

    The migrants from Islamic countries watch Erdogan TV, Arabic TV and Iranian TV. Who would have thought that this will cause huge problems?

    All of this is really an unforeseeable miracle. It really is.

    If you ever wake up in a thing called real world – just give me a call. But I heavily doubt you ever will.

  121. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    26. March 2016 at 18:44


    Obviously Turkey, Israel, and the United States are behind the Islamic State.

    “Behind” is a really big word. Turkey and Saudi-Arabia supported IS in the beginning heavily. Obama must have realized this very early but it took him way too long to do anything about it.

    Israel is not powerful enough to do anything about IS. They have nothing to do with IS. An new Islamic state right next to them is Israel’s worst nightmare. An established IS would constantly attack Israel until Israel is wiped out from the map.

  122. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    26. March 2016 at 19:26

    Lorenzo,

    “Various European countries have much more of a problem because they have never worked out a coherent concept of migration, […] and who generally regulate their labour markets in ways which more or less guarantee creating alienated underclasses. ”

    NOW you have put the finger to the heart of the matter. This is exactly the problem. Even free movement of EU people scares people enough to want to roll it back (see UK, e.g.). Welfare benefits are also to blame (“social envy” = foreigners are getting my benefits!!!).

    Any kind of immigration scares Europeans. Never mind that historically there has been plenty. The nation state concept post-French revolution mucked it all up. Forward to post-WW2, over decades, governments have maintained the pretense that there isn’t to be any legal immigration – only repatriation of lost empires, guest workers for low paying jobs, family reunions, and in today’s context, war refugees for humanitarian reasons (no one guessed one day there could be millions of those again when the asylum laws were created).

    So in the current context, the only real setup for immigration from outside and into the EU is for immigration by people who obviously have a problem. They’re the only ones let in. There are no orderly, controlled, positive immigration programs comparable to Australia or New Zealand. Note, the US doesn’t have any either of course, here too besides family repatriation there is no reasonable pathway to legal immigration. [I know someone will nitpick this but never mind. National interest waivers and ten year legal processes are NOT reasonable pathways].

    This has poisoned the immigration debate in Europe for decades and makes rational policies near impossible there. If the Syrian problem disappeared tomorrow, the hostility towards all and any immigration will still remain.

  123. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    26. March 2016 at 19:34

    Thanks Scott: I see it didn’t last. It would be nice if the “blame the Jews” and “blame the US” folks could get their heads around the idea that Islam is a 1400 year old civilisation with its own dynamics.

    I would say that the Syrian civil war and the rise of the Islamic State are a product of the underlying problems of Islam in the modern world:
    (1) Islam has great difficulty doing “different but equal”.
    (2) Islam as a religion, social order or civilisation is not well structured for social bargaining.
    (3) Most Muslims nevertheless want democracy, which is social bargaining par excellence.
    (4) Islam is inherently inclined to territorial imperialism, in a world where it doesn’t pay but social bargaining does.

  124. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    26. March 2016 at 19:35

    Which is to say, that non-Islamic countries can have civil wars, but it is Islam that generates militantly imperial religious would-be states that can inspire terror cells in foreign countries.

  125. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    26. March 2016 at 19:40

    List,

    I have no hope to convince you. You put words in my mouth. You look at the same data as me and you don’t see what I see. Or maybe you don’t even read stuff that I link to, so your worldview stays safe.

    That being said, I do hope that the other readers here open the links I provide and draw their own conclusions.

    One more thing: “It’s a free country”. No, it’s the internet. Whichever country you meant, people aren’t all from one country here.

  126. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    26. March 2016 at 19:53

    Lorenzo,

    “Which is to say, that non-Islamic countries can have civil wars, but it is Islam that generates militantly imperial religious would-be states that can inspire terror cells in foreign countries.”

    Aren’t you overgeneralizing a little here, to put it mildly? Does this description fit “the Islamic world” pre-US invasions of Afghanistan? Even today, which Islamic country besides Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and coming up Libya, fits your description? Let me do a quick East-West run down from memory… Marocco? Algeria? Tunisia? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? The Emirates? Jordan? Iran? Pakistan? Bangladesh? Malaysia? Indonesia? Does your description fit any of these? Population wise we must have 80% of Islamic countries now that don’t fit your pattern, easily a billion people. Conversely, the ones that fit were all bombed by the US before they developed their problem. I don’t want to blame the US here, that’s not my point, it’s more complex than that. Just to point out that the great majority of Islamic countries don’t fit your bill. Lorenzo, I really respect your postings and scholarship but this does not make sense to me.

  127. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    26. March 2016 at 20:01

    @Art
    https://www.rt.com/news/336967-isis-files-oil-turkey-exclusive/

    @Christian

    “Israel is not powerful enough to do anything about IS.”

    -“Anything” is too strong here. It can only do very little about it on its own.

    “They have nothing to do with IS.”

    -That would be a “no”.

    “An new Islamic state right next to them is Israel’s worst nightmare.”

    -Except that the Islamic State has existed on the border of Israel for something like a year, and has recently tried to go on the offensive (it didn’t entirely work; it only captured villages from other Syrian rebels). Clearly, then, it’s not Israel’s worst nightmare. Look at any map of the conflict. Surely this is no accident. Israel used to care for injured Syrian rebels on its Syrian border. Not sure if it does so for the IS fighters on its border, or still does so for the Syrian rebels still on its border. If it really wanted the IS gone from its border, it could send in some Syrian rebels through the Golan Heights.

    And Israel understands its military is far more powerful than that of Hezbollah or the Islamic State. It also views it as a way to grind down Hezbollah. That’s why it’s fine with the IS existing on its border and in Raqqa. The Islamic State also realizes this, and has never attacked Israel.

    “Obama must have realized this very early but it took him way too long to do anything about it.”

    -That’s because he was too busy calling it a “J-V team” and using it to discredit al-Maliki while al-Maliki was calling for airstrikes (Iraq didn’t really have an airforce). Very sly of him.

  128. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    26. March 2016 at 20:06

    Deco,

    You posted this way above:

    “The principal way ordinary people have of reducing their vulnerability to homicides is to stay out of sketchy areas. […] There’s not much reason to travel through slums if you do not know anyone there; they don’t have much commercial enterprise and aren’t likely to have anything for sale you cannot get elsewhere except street drugs and cheap whores. ”

    I’m sorry but “the slums” are full of ordinary people too. “The slums” aren’t some kind of foreign country. People live there, and are being terrorized by small minorities with guns. People there stay not because they’re all part of the mob. They just can’t escape it so easily.

    The way you wrote it, not only do these ordinary “slum people” not seem to matter. It sounds like they don’t even exist, like the “slum” is some sort of negative Disneyland that you can either go to or avoid. Not all people have a choice to either drive into the “slum”, or not drive into the “slum”. Many don’t have a choice, because the “slum” is their home.

  129. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    26. March 2016 at 21:08

    @mbka

    -It’s not so simple. For a time, Black people were moving into Detroit while White people were leaving it and its crime rate was rapidly going up. It seems Blacks generally have a greater tolerance for crime.

  130. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    26. March 2016 at 21:27

    @mbka, I enjoyed reading your comments.

  131. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    26. March 2016 at 23:29

    Tom Brown,

    thanks.

  132. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    27. March 2016 at 02:29

    mbka: Nigeria. Also please read about the Algerian civil war. As for Afghanistan, the Taliban existed before US intervention. (You also need to read up on Pakistani policy.)

    In fact, I suggest you should start reading some Algerian intellectuals. Since Algeria (for various reasons) has a stronger modernist Left than most places, folk such as Karima Benoune, Kamel Daoud and those behind the “Secularism is a Women’s Issue blog” (http://www.siawi.org) provide an ongoing critique of political Islam and problematic aspects of Middle Eastern culture which a lot of folk in the West seem unwilling to discuss.

    On that last point, Peter Berman and Michael Walzer’s article on the piling on Kamel Daoud for being (what can only be described as an “uppity Arab”) is well worth reading.
    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/198606/the-daoud-affair

    As is Karima Benoune’s “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here”.
    http://www.amazon.com/Your-Fatwa-Does-Apply-Here/dp/0393081583

    Islam, it’s own civilisation with it’s own internal patterns and dynamics. Really.

  133. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    27. March 2016 at 02:32

    mbka: While agreeing with what you say about Europe up to a point, if they were importing Latin Americans or East Asians, there would also be a lot less angst.

  134. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    27. March 2016 at 04:55

    Lorenzo,

    I’ll give you Boko Haram as the closest to IS-style behavior. Then again, they’re even closer in behavior to the Lord’s resistance Army in East Africa and those called themselves Christians… Further, Nigeria is neither fully Muslim, nor does Boko Haram so far have a statelet within it, nor does Nigeria as a whole fit your description that Islam somehow generically “generates militantly imperial religious would-be states that can inspire terror cells in foreign countries”. And, Al Qaeda now has a hand in Nigeria but this is not how it started.

    As to Algeria, I followed its civil war in real time when I did my PhD in France in the 90s. The news coverage was extensive, believe me. Not to mention the many summers I spent in Tunisia as a young adult, my bunch of pieds-noir / descendants friends which all had me follow the events very closely. And for all I know, Algeria fits your description even less. The FIS won the elections, the military said no way, and the GIA started a pretty classic guerilla insurrection, albeit with massive terror inflicetd on civilians. Result, of the 100,000 or so that were killed in that awful war, pretty much all of them were killed locally. There was no sizeable “export product” from this war, save for terrorist acts in France, which quietly supported the Algerian government.

    Anecdotally I remember one of the hijackings of the time sported a fellow who had planned to refuel the hijacked plane in Nice and fly it into the Eiffel tower. Somehow this plan got out and the authorities stormed the plane as a result, which they might not have done w/o that element. That was in the early 90s so when 9/11 happened I wasn’t too surprised, only, that the earlier incident had apparently been ignored. At least, by US intel. And if I could read about it in the newspapers I would rather think that the US IC knew about it too.

    So back to the subject – Afghanistan, yes of course, and it wasn’t on my list for good reason. Nigeria, not really, and Algeria, no. And the other countries, totalling 1 bio+ Muslims? Neither. I still don’t see Islam generically generating imperial religious would-be states that export their model for generic terror.

    As to

    “if they were importing Latin Americans or East Asians, there would also be a lot less angst.”

    I am not sure sure when I witness the panic over Polish plumbers.

  135. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    27. March 2016 at 07:02

    @E. Harding
    I’m a bit surprised but I agree with what you wrote about Israel this time. I expected some anti-Semitic comments. I was wrong. This time.

  136. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    27. March 2016 at 07:05


    Any kind of immigration scares Europeans.

    I don’t think it’s that simple. Most immigration within the EU is pretty much normal by now. Especially Germans see themselves often as Europeans.

    There are certain types of migration that make people skeptical. Interestingly especially Germans with a migration background are skeptical of certain new immigrants. Which even makes some sense because for them it’s competition while rich “native” Germans aren’t affected at all by the typical immigration to Germany from outside the EU.

    I assume this is one reason why in my former hometown for example the AfD had the most voters with a migration background by far. The AfD had more than 30% immigrant voters while all the other parties had far less (10% at best). That was a really funny graph in the newspaper.


    Never mind that historically there has been plenty. The nation state concept post-French revolution mucked it all up.

    It’s hard to believe that there was so much more migration before the French revolution. Peasants weren’t even allowed to move in most cases. And about 80-90% of the population at that time must have been peasants.

    There was some migration because of terror, war and persecution. But I assume that’s hardly the role model you had in mind. Or did you?

    I like to look up surnames and project them on German and other European maps. You need surnames that aren’t exactly common for this. When you do this you’ll see that people with the same surname live mostly in the same region. There’s hardly any movement at all.

    A British researcher used a similar method to find out about social mobility during the centuries. The result was astonishing. There was far far less social mobility than expected.

  137. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. March 2016 at 07:13

    Art, Well at least we agree about Chomsky.

    Lorenzo, I think my point was that the main terrorist problem in the West is currently from Arab regions, plus the Afghan/Pakistan border area where we have become militarily involved. There are Muslim separatist groups all over (Philippines, India, China, Thailand, etc.) but these aren’t generally aimed at the West. Is that right?

    I’m not too worried about my Iranian dentist.

    Well, actually I am kind of afraid of him. :)

  138. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    27. March 2016 at 07:52

    mbka, aside from the effrontery incorporated in your remarks, I’m perfectly aware that ‘ordinary people’ live in slums. Most slum dwellers are tertiary sector workers who differ from others in certain respects but when viewed cross-sectionally are not particularly troublesome (though their late adolescent sons may be and both adults and children can be episodically astonishingly rude to neighbors in a way they’d never try in workplaces). Where I grew up, 40% of the population is exurban, rural, and small town and north of 80% of the remainder live neither in the slums nor in the sketchy areas adjacent to them. Non-troublesome people who are residents of slums or adjacent areas amount to 7-8% of the population of my home region, indubitably not very different from that of the rest of the country as I grew up in a very average town. They’re not a large enough demographic segment for me to feel it was strictly necessary in a blog post to qualify my discussion by pointing them out.

  139. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    27. March 2016 at 11:00

    “Massimo, I agree that when blacks and Jews are singled out and terrorized it is a whole different level of problem. I was referring to the US, or European groups who are not singled out, like the unfortunate victims in Brussels.”

    The two aren’t separate. To quote news, “Following the Brussels terror attack, Belgian police request that the Jewish community cancel their Purim celebrations as the police are unable to protect the community.”

    Or: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3508394/Hijab-wearing-woman-caught-camera-TEARING-Israeli-flag-Brussels-memorial-dead.html

    Or: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3511528/Dozens-mothers-children-52-killed-suicide-bomber-targeted-Christians-celebrating-Easter-park-Pakistan.html

    I’d like to request that you address my other main point: When Dylan Roof killed nine peaceful black Americans and injured one other and cited Confederate and other White Nationalist symbology as his motivation, Obama wasn’t “cool and cerebral”, he was the opposite. He was dramatic, emotional, he made personal appearances, he actually launched into public song, he launched nation wide campaigns to shame Confederate symbology. Even though statistically, just as you are asserting that terror attacks with Muslim symbology are minor on a global scale, terror attacks with Confederate symbology are an order of magnitude more rare and less threatening.

    During the Chibok kidnapping of 300 girls in Nigeria, Michelle Obama wasn’t “cool and cerebral”, she was publicly emotional and hysterical about it. They were black girls, not just faceless whites and Jews. When Obama made his Cuba trip recently, he spoke about his deep concern and sympathy for specifically those Cubans of “African descent” in case he needed to spell it out for you. I guess you could admire how “cool and cerebral” he was about the plights of the other faceless Cubans who don’t have the sacred African descent.

  140. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    27. March 2016 at 12:36

    @Massimo Heitor
    Very good points.

  141. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    27. March 2016 at 13:24

    Good news everyone! You can now sign a petition to allow the attendees of the Republican convention to bring their guns. I figure it’s a win-win: It will maximize freedom AND security. (and entertainment, if you’re a safe distance away, like I plan to be). I signed right away. ;D

  142. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    27. March 2016 at 17:16

    @Tom Brown

    I would not be so sure. Last time I checked mass shootings happened mostly at places where the attacker was pretty sure that he was the only person carrying a gun. You rarely see mass shootings at NRA conventions or hunting parties.

  143. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    27. March 2016 at 17:29

    @List, great, then you’ll sign too? I’ve convinced about a dozen people to sign so far. I’m 100% for it.

  144. Gravatar of Don Geddis Don Geddis
    27. March 2016 at 17:48

    @Tom Brown: +1. That’s a very clever petition. It’s almost certainly satire, but it’s well written enough that it’s hard to be completely sure. A brilliant example of Poe’s law.

  145. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    27. March 2016 at 17:58

    @List, like you say, what could possibly go wrong?? I can’t think of a thing

    @Don,
    Apparently Trump wants to study the “fine print”:
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2016/03/27/donald-trump-ted-cruz-john-kasich-guns-open-carry-cleveland-convention-republicans/82321374/

  146. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    27. March 2016 at 20:31

    List,

    I’d concur that often, it’s the most recent immigrants that are most skeptical of new migrants… for the reasons you stated as well.

    On European historical migrations, often these were indeed linked to war, invasions, or natural disasters. Just one example, and this should be quite fascinating, assuming that you are German. When the Edict of Nantes (on tolerating protestants in France) was revoked in 1685, up to 400,000 often highly educated protestants fled the country. Either they did not want to convert by force to Catholicism, or they feared renewed sectarian massacres as those that had occurred a Century earlier there. Many of the refugees went to Prussia, where they left a legacy of French surnames. And, thanks to their imported skills, they substantially contributed to the rise of Prussia in the first place. Here is Wikipedia on it, sorry for the laziness 😉 :
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Nantes#Revocation

    The study on social mobility using names was from Sweden I think and quite sobering.

  147. Gravatar of 4runner 4runner
    28. March 2016 at 07:34

    I believe that the chart is misleading.

    I suspect that most of those attacks in the UK were IRA. In Spain, it probably was the Basques or other separatists.

    Don’t get me wrong– I’d happily import 100,000’s of Syrian refugees into the US by the boatful– but failing to mention the decline of European terrorism in Europe is misleading.

  148. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    28. March 2016 at 12:36

    @4runner, that was my 1st thought: the decline of terror attacks by those other groups: not that it was misleading. It’s not labeled radical Islamic Terrorism.

  149. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    28. March 2016 at 13:23

    I read few days ago in the WaPo that ssumner’s theory (=the voters behind the non-Trump votes are against Trump) is wrong. (Who would have thought so). The WaPo found out that staggering 50% of Cruz voters got Trump as second choice for example.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/03/23/why-donald-trump-is-poised-to-win-the-nomination-and-lose-the-general-election-in-one-poll/

    The GOP establishment maneuvered itself in an astonishing dilemma here. Trump voters wont be happy at all when GOP guys steal the nomination from their idol. The vengeance of the Trump camp could harm the GOP extremely and even lead to an auto-win for Hillary. And even worse: Alternatives like Cruz won’t have a chance against Hillary either. But if they pick neither Trump nor Cruz around 75% of the primary votes will be meaningless. And if they pick Trump or Cruz they still most likely lose the election to Hillary.

    And to make things worse: The anti-Trump camp seems to hate Trump and his supporters passionately. It’s really hard to see a solution here that makes all major camps happy. Unfortunately the GOP will need all camps on board to have a small chance in the elections.

  150. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    28. March 2016 at 13:47

    @mbka
    I’m glad that we agree on quite some things for a change.

    One of my co-workers got an Arabic surname. Not just one co-worker actually but this person is interesting: He’s not a recent immigrant but his ancestors have been guards and advisors of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia.

    The study about social mobility I read was from the UK.


    where they left a legacy of French surnames.

    Yeah I know about this. The German Minister of the Interior de Maizière is an example for this. I think even Thilo Sarrazin admitted that he is of Prussian-Huguenot ancestry.

    And the people from certain parts of Germany say: “Oh my dear the Prussians, look to which misery they lead us.”

  151. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    28. March 2016 at 14:41

    Alternatives like Cruz won’t have a chance against Hillary either.

    Cruz polls satisfactorily against HRC. He’s fallen off a few points in recent weeks, but w/in the margin of error.

  152. Gravatar of Ben J Ben J
    28. March 2016 at 20:02

    Art’s right guys, I think Romney will definitely beat Obama.

  153. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    29. March 2016 at 05:09

    Art’s right guys, I think Romney will definitely beat Obama.

    Partisan Democrats are infected with an over-confidence that may bite them in the ass and Republicans are addled by hypochondria. Neither are intelligent or in anyone’s interest.

  154. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    29. March 2016 at 07:32

    Massimo, If I defend Obama on Islamic terrorism that doesn’t mean I agree with his views on all other issues.

    4runner, You said:

    “I suspect that most of those attacks in the UK were IRA. In Spain, it probably was the Basques or other separatists.”

    That’s obvious, but why does it make the chart misleading?

    Christian. The polls are conflicting, but it is true that Trump’s support has been rising over time. A few months back polls showed Trump losing in head to heads with other candidates.

    As for 2016, that’s probably a lost cause for the GOP. The focus now should be on getting a better candidate in 2020, when Hillary will be very vulnerable. Maybe a Paul Ryan. Trump losing by a landslide might actually be good for the GOP, if it drives Trumpism out of the party.

  155. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    29. March 2016 at 10:48


    Trump losing by a landslide might actually be good for the GOP, if it drives Trumpism out of the party.

    Exactly. Let him be the front runner. He can lose and he (most likely) will lose. But it’s the democratic way. Maybe the only democratic way.

    Stealing his nomination is not the democratic way. And it’s not what GOP voters want either.

    Here’s another recent poll:

    “A new NBC News/SurveyMonkey online tracking poll released Tuesday found Trump leading the Texas senator, 48 percent to 27 percent.

    When it comes to the possibility of a contested convention, the survey found that a majority of registered Republicans and those who lean Republican, 57 percent, believe that Trump should win the nomination if he wins a plurality of delegates, even if he fails to capture a majority of delegates.”

    http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/274518-trump-holds-21-point-lead-in-new-national-poll

  156. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    29. March 2016 at 10:59

    @Art

    Cruz polls satisfactorily against HRC. He’s fallen off a few points in recent weeks, but w/in the margin of error.

    That’s because the mainstream press did not really focus on him so far. They target Trump at the moment because Trump is the front runner. They will target any GOP front runner, no matter who he is. Trump’s points vs. Hillary fell like a stone since they focus on him so much. The exact same thing would happen to Cruz. Cruz is an easy target. At least as easy as Trump.

    They will never focus on Hillary though. Not in this election. For example the Investor’s Business Daily found out that mainstream press has almost nothing to do with uncovering the Clinton Email Scandal. The mainstream press is not interested in this at all. What a surprise.

    http://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/clinton-email-scandal-how-a-biased-press-tried-to-ignore-it/

  157. Gravatar of Lee Lee
    29. March 2016 at 16:29

    @Mark
    In CNN’s gun forum, Obama showed that his admin was being cerebral about reducing gun violence. He said that historical decreases in gun violence is not a good reason to give up on further reductions via a policy that even the majority of gun advocates support. He used car and toy safety as analogies that just because something was made safer doesn’t mean we stop improving it.

  158. Gravatar of Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton
    30. March 2016 at 06:56

    @postkey Very poor response even by your standards. Out of curiosity are the Syrian people who rose up against their hated dictator (as virtually every group or people has at some point in their history) responsible in any way for their own actions or is it all the fault of the US? Why are Arabs incapable of overthrowing a dictator?

    @E. Harding Just lol. What kind of manipulation? MKUltra? I know your an alex jones type but surely you don’t think the US government has perfected mind control?

  159. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. March 2016 at 08:44

    Christian, You said:

    “Stealing his nomination is not the democratic way.”

    No one is proposing “stealing” the nomination, the convention is supposed to make the determination. That’s how it has always worked. Love how Trump praises tough guys like Putin (who ignore legal niceties), and the Chinese leaders who cracked down on “rioters” in 1989, but then acts like a crybaby when there is discussion of the convention actually doing its job, which is to pick the best candidate. I thought Trump followers believed candidates should be like street fighters. You sound more like a John Kerry supporter.

  160. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    30. March 2016 at 11:37

    @ssumner

    I can totally live without Trump as front runner. It’s the strong Trump supporters that won’t be too happy about that. And honestly: I think the hostility of the anti-Trump camp towards Trump is at least as deep as the other way round. Even you are getting very passionate about this topic. The animosity on both sides is enormous. So of course the Trump camp will regard the denial of the nomination as stealing and regard it as undemocratic.

    (Think of it the other way round. Trump as #3, Cruz #2 and Kasich #1, and then Trump stealing the nomination at the convention. The majority of voters would be furious, and rightly so.)

    Let’s say the GOP establishment really does this. Then they need to be really careful with the justification. They can’t say for example – like you and Politico and others did – that
    the voters behind the non-Trump votes are actually against Trump, when polls show that this is totally not the case. That would be regarded as an undemocratic lie.

    They can say of course that Trump is a candidate that can not be sold to the general public – and that’s why they think it’s better to decide against the majority of GOP voters.

  161. Gravatar of John Brennan John Brennan
    30. March 2016 at 14:27

    Perhaps I missed it, but what are your feelings on the Presiden’ts glad-handing of communism (hey, it’s just as good as captilism, only different)? I suppose that the MILLIONS and MILLIONS who perished because of Stalin and Mao would disagree with your teenage-like fawning over the President’s perspicacity, in general. But we will never know. They were murdered by communists.

  162. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. March 2016 at 17:58

    Christian, I am more afraid of Trump winning than not winning. The GOP would be hurt far more by him winning. If he can’t win, that makes me want to nominate him more than otherwise, as it might force the GOP to re-evaluate their views if he lost badly.

  163. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. March 2016 at 18:00

    John, You said:

    “hey, it’s just as good as capitalism, only different”

    I’d be outraged if he said that. But instead I’m outraged at how Obama’s critics constantly misrepresent his views.

    There’s plenty to be critical about with Obama, without making things up out of thin air.

  164. Gravatar of John Brennan John Brennan
    31. March 2016 at 14:24

    Scott, sorry for not providing you specific citations of what he said. Here is an excerpt from a talk he was having in Argentina (from the Washington Times with link http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/25/obama-on-capitalist-versus-communist-theory-just-c/):

    “So often in the past there’s been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist,” the president said Wednesday during a Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative town hall meeting in Buenos Aires. “And especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate, right? Oh, you know, you’re a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you’re some crazy communist that’s going to take away everybody’s property.“And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory — you should just decide what works,” Mr. Obama continued. “And I said this to President Castro in Cuba. I said, look, you’ve made great progress in educating young people. Every child in Cuba gets a basic education — that’s a huge improvement from where it was. Medical care — the life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States, despite it being a very poor country, because they have access to health care. That’s a huge achievement. They should be congratulated.”

    My statement was a summary of his recent trips. I do not think that I made things up out of thin air. He clearly made a moral equation of communism and capitalism without examining the historical proofs, so to speak. The president clearly has an affinity for the Cuban thugs that he feted. I just wish that you–someone who fancies himself a libertarian of sorts–would be a bit more critical of this essential flaw in the man you fawn over. Check this out: https://www.quora.com/How-many-deaths-is-Fidel-Castro-responsible-for

    I don’t disagree with your contention that Obama is right about the actual threat of terrorism and that our policies should reflect the facts (I think that NATO should be disbanded as well). However, the President’s bigger and immoral blind spot of Cuba and the Castros (and their historical partners in crime–Stalin, Mao, among others)cannot be countenanced.

    Let me know if you need more citations. You could have checked on your own without casting aspersions on me.

  165. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    31. March 2016 at 17:43

    I agree that Obama is good on terrorism tamping down the hysteria, but if a white cop kills a black person he should mention that there are 330 million people in the country and about 40 million blacks. It is bound to happen quite often and does not mean that racism is rampant among cops. Instead he gets throws wood on the fire.

  166. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    1. April 2016 at 17:59

    John, You said:

    “I do not think that I made things up out of thin air.”

    I do.

    You said:

    “I just wish that you–someone who fancies himself a libertarian of sorts–would be a bit more critical of this essential flaw in the man you fawn over.”

    Another case of you making things up. I have never “fawned” over Obama, and indeed I don’t like many of his policies. That fact that you think otherwise is consistent with your misinterpretation of what he said elsewhere. I certainly would not defend his statements on Cuba, but it’s a stretch to claim he’s drawing a moral equivalence. You need to read with a more critical eye.

    Do you really think that Obama is unaware of the crimes of communism?

  167. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    1. April 2016 at 17:59

    Floccina, Fair point.

  168. Gravatar of John Brennan John Brennan
    2. April 2016 at 10:48

    It is not that I believe that he is unaware, It is that he does not believe that they are criminals who committed murderous crimes (in this case, the Castros). And for him to congratulate murderers and tyrants on supposed quality health care–based on the supposed upsides of communism–is a clear moral equation of the two systems. I believe that is you who needs to be more critical in this case.

  169. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    5. April 2016 at 11:44

    @John

    -Cut it off. The Cuban communists were worse than the previous dictatorship, but they weren’t as bad as you’re implying.

  170. Gravatar of John Brennan John Brennan
    6. April 2016 at 18:09

    @E. Harding

    I am not implying anything. I stated that they are communist, murderous dictators. Run of the mill. Your comparison to the previous regime is irrelevant.

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