2015 October 31 Saturday
Most State Prisoners Are Violent Felons

54% of inmates in state prisons are violent felons. Another argument against the new elite obsession with cutting incarceration rates. Prisons cost about one half of a percent of GDP. Prisons save non-criminals from assault, rape, murder, robbery, burglary, fraud, and other crimes. Prisons seem like a good deal for the money. Surely our far larger spending in defense protects us much less.

Most released prisoners end up back in prison. A more detailed look at recidivism here.

We ought to deport legal and illegal alien criminals. If they return we should lock them up for a few years and then deport them again.

Criminality has a very large innate component. Check out this unified crime theory using an evolutionary taxonomy by Brian Boutwell and other researchers. Also check out my other posts on prisons.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 31 03:30 PM  China Control Internal
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2015 October 30 Friday
GOP Elites Discovering Their Base Hates Them

Time for GOP panic? Establishment worried Carson or Trump might win.

Are you right wing? If you are, do you like or trust the people who run the Republican Party? Do you trust the big donors?

The elites could make inroads against Trump. But on one issue they refuse. The elites will not bring forth a candidate who wants to stop and reverse illegal immigration. By contrast, Donald Trump is ready to move the Overton Window in a direction the elites adamantly oppose.

"You’re going to have a deportation force. And your going to do it humanely."

More people are getting stuck at minimum wage for more years, wages are dropping for the least skilled, and a very large fraction of US counties have hit peak median wage years or decades ago. The elites are completely tone deaf to all this. The elites just want to hear debates between the progressive left and libertarians. No wonder Trump is doing so well.

Does the Trump phenomenon and Ben Carson's popularity signal an end to the era when the Republican elites could assume their base would go along with what they wanted? Or is this just a brief rebellion until the elites figure out how to distract the base away from their perceived best interests?

By Randall Parker 2015 October 30 08:23 PM 
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2015 October 27 Tuesday
US Troops To Go On Offensive In Syria, Iraq

The headline: Ashton Carter: U.S. to Begin 'Direct Action on the Ground' in Iraq, Syria.

Shiites in Iraq don't want to fight to recapture Sunni areas. Alawites and other minority factions in Syria also don't want to fight in Sunni areas. In the Sunni areas it is hard to get people worked up to fight against the Sunni fundamentalists in ISIS/ISIF/Daesh. Anatoly Karlin brought this out in maps (more here). Each ethnic group occupies its own people's territory for the most part.

The problem with Arab armies is nothing new. A major cause is easy to understand. The United States is left with the inability to ally with a competent moderate semi-secular Arab state or semi-secular Sunni Arab militia that wants to form such a state. The United States keeps trying to pursue a goal that depends on its ability to stand up competent moderate semi-secular Arab state. US policy keeps failing. Nothing is learned.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 27 08:26 PM 
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2015 October 25 Sunday
Migrant Flow Into Greece From Turkey Hits 9600 Per Day

The Camp Of The Saints gets more prophetic every day. 3.5 million per year flow rate baby!

Angela Merkel is incredibly irresponsible. Hundreds of millions will come unless they are prevented at sea and deported. See Slovenia sees end to EU if leaders fail on migrant plan. Slovenia should build a border barrier to present illegal aliens from entering from Croatia. Croatia should build border barriers as well. So should all the Balkans countries.

Some educational experiences are painful. How high will the pain have to get before the EU elites say enough is enough? Or are they simply beyond rational response? Even leaving aside the conflict of cultures, values, religions Europe can not afford this.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 25 07:10 PM 
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2015 October 24 Saturday
Social Media Makes People Angry And Extremist?

Patrick West thinks Friedrich Nietzsche predicted a modern trend: the politics of emotion triumphing over the politics of reason.

From Islamist extremists, censorious students, sermonising feminists, ascendant shouty Corbynites, the self-appointed ‘99%’, devout environmentalists, pious dieticians who conflate food with morality, the belligerent hard right to the angry young men of Scottish nationalism, we live in a new, more entrenched age of extremes. The violent turn of behaviour of some self-righteous cyclists in recent years is but its latest manifestation. Everybody seems to have very profound opinions on any number of matters.

You can choose Twitter streams to follow which will reinforce your beliefs and remind you daily of offenses against all that you hold good. Is this making people hold more intolerant and extreme views? It is an interesting idea, though not an original one.

What do you think? Are people going to become more divided into factions with extreme resentments and feelings of outrage? Are better news filters going to make this easier to do?

By Randall Parker 2015 October 24 02:20 PM 
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2015 October 18 Sunday
Germany Will Fail To Assimilate Immigrants

This is the best essay summing up what a disaster is in the making in Europe with the large Middle Eastern immigrant influx. Adam Garfinkle makes many good points on the German asylum debacle in the making:

What sort of sound is that other shoe going to make when it finally does drop? Truth be told, the German leadership—and the EU leadership as well, with Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg in the lead—are planting the seeds for long-term agony. That agony will comes in three forms: the economics of the welfare state; the self-blinding politics of multiculturalism; and security.

I don't mean to bore my regular readers but this needs to be said again: The EU welfare states are in deep financial trouble and can not afford a large influx of low skilled people. Look at this OECD sovereign debt table. Governments with sovereign debt of 100+% GDP can not afford Angela Merkel's folly.

Germany's pressure on other welfare states (which are in far worse financial shape than Germany) to take in Muslim immigrants and put them on the dole is incredibly unfair. Germany will turn around and pressure these same welfare states to raise taxes and cut services to reduce the sovereign debt. Germany won't let the EU central bank to inflate way that sovereign debt. The skilled populations of these countries are aging. The debt burden of these countries is already on course to become too large.

Consider: 0.1% of 1 million is 1000. What damage can 1000 terrorists do?

If only a tenth of one percent of these Arabs are now or are later turned toward salafi-based political violence for any number of reasons we can all think of, then Germany will have a problem that will shred its esteemed privacy laws to bits, whether Germans like it or not.

Multiculturalism has contradictions embedded in it. We are supposed to respect and celebrate differences. But many differences in values are deep and fundamental. What one group requires as moral rules to live by will be seen by another group as an offense against all that is holy and just. These groups should be separated by borders, not by neighborhoods or apartment house walls.

It is, in my view, better morally to respect the dignity of difference than it is to try to expunge it though the mindless homogenization of humankind, which is the unstated premise at the base of the “thinking” of much of the EU elite. What better way to get rid of pesky nationalism than to get rid of nations, eh?

Garfinkle says the immigrants are going to cause an east-west split within the EU. Will Schengen collapse? How will this play out?

By Randall Parker 2015 October 18 11:31 AM 
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2015 October 17 Saturday
Henry Kissinger On Middle East Policy Failure

After describing how 4 states have collapsed (Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq) Henry Kissinger lists some of the (many) non-state actors now operating in some of the failed states.

ISIS’ claim has given the millennium-old split between the Shiite and Sunni sects of Islam an apocalyptic dimension. The remaining Sunni states feel threatened by both the religious fervor of ISIS as well as by Shiite Iran, potentially the most powerful state in the region. Iran compounds its menace by presenting itself in a dual capacity. On one level, Iran acts as a legitimate Westphalian state conducting traditional diplomacy, even invoking the safeguards of the international system. At the same time, it organizes and guides nonstate actors seeking regional hegemony based on jihadist principles: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria; Hamas in Gaza; the Houthis in Yemen.

Big Shia threat? The demographic numbers do not add up. Kissinger has listened to too many complaining Sunni princes. Since the Shias in Syria are a minority I do not see how Iran can create a regional hegemony with Syria as one of the pieces. I think Kissinger (and the Sunni Arabs in their own imaginations) exaggerate the size of the strategic threat from Iran. I do not expect the Iranians to try to conquer their neighbors. The US would help their neighbors whip them badly if they tried.

The Middle East is a region where there is much more loyalty to family, extended clan, and sect than to state. So the nation-states are all pretty weak at the national level. We can't hope to fix that. The animosities based on ethnic and religious sect identities require either dictators (better long serving royalty with many generations in the saddle) or nations whose boundaries are drawn to make them ethnically homogeneous.

Since US policy in the Middle East is so unrealistic (e.g. the search for the moderate Syrian opposition, the attempt to build a national Iraqi army, ditto Afghanistan; US support for overthrow of dictatorships and resulting civil wars) we (and all non-Sunni Syrians) are lucky that a much more realistic Vladimir Putin is intervening in Syria.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 17 06:43 PM 
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Muslims In Denmark Becoming More Fundamentalist

Are liberal European values hegemonic and oppressive? If they aren't then Denmark is in trouble. This is not assimilation to liberal European values:

Research in the European microcosm nation of Denmark has found three-quarters of Muslims in the country register on an important measure for radicalisation – more now than a decade ago.

Imagine what this portends for Germany where in Bavaria alone 300k welfare-seeking illegal immigrants (aka refugees in progressive vernacular) arrived in less than 2 months. They are overwhelmingly Muslim and have values which are in conflict with German values.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 17 05:02 PM 
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Tom Wolfe's Career And Development

Good story in Vanity Fair: How Tom Wolfe Became Tom Wolfe. Tom Wolfe has highlighted to us the importance of status-seeking as a driver of human activity and human accomplishment. Since so much harmful activities by our intellectuals and political elites is a consequence of status seeking it is important to understand the pervasiveness of status seeking and its pathological manifestations.

I disagree with Tom Wolfe about one important point: His belief in inevitability of the juggernaut that is (or was) America. The political divisions are deepening across the political spectrum and between the classes. Immigration is helping that process along mightily. Living standards are stagnating for most and the bottom half are doing poorly. In our future robotic nation most people won't have an economic purpose.

The role of our elites in all this is definitely pathological. They reject the most predictive social science in educational policy, labor policy, immigration policy, and in trade policy. Will the status seekers in the public realm ever shift back to more constructive pursuits?

By Randall Parker 2015 October 17 01:51 PM 
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Growing Number Of Ungoverned Regions

A growing number of areas around the world are no longer under control of sovereign governments. Did you know that Mexico's murder rate tripled from 2007 to 2011? The graph for Mexico shows what Bloomberg considers to be an ungoverned region in Mexico.

In 2006, the Mexican government began a major military offensive against drug gangs that had grown increasingly powerful over several decades. The violence only became more extreme before peaking in 2011. Shootouts between police and gangs are commonplace in many towns and cities, as is kidnapping. The government has little or no control over some areas of the country. Mexico's number of homicides more than tripled from 2007 to 2011 and its murder rate is the 20th highest in the world.

We need to build a substantial border barrier along the US southern border with Mexico. It will insulate us from this partially failed state.

What surprised me: classification of part of northern Sinai as ungoverned. I don't follow the news coming from Israel or Egypt near Israel. So does anyone understand it? Is the Egyptian government under less than full control of the Sinai?

Also, I hadn't been aware that part of Malaysia near Thailand is ungoverned. Anyone know about that?

Parts of Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan ungoverned: totally unsurprising. Ditto Somalia. Ditto the Boko Haram region in Nigeria.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 17 12:46 PM 
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2015 October 09 Friday
More Workers Stuck In Minimum Wage Jobs For Years

See Ben Casselman's It’s Getting Harder To Move Beyond A Minimum-Wage Job:

During the strong labor market of the mid-1990s, only 1 in 5 minimum-wage workers was still earning minimum wage a year later. Today, that number is nearly 1 in 3, according to my analysis of government survey data.

It is even worse than that short excerpt suggests. Read the whole thing.

Recall my recent post: When Each US County Hit Peak Median Income. If you aren't in upper ranks of skilled workers then you are facing a stagnant or declining living standard. At the lowest skill levels over half the population isn't working. As automation eliminates more blue collar work I expect more to slide down to minimum wage or no employment.

I have advice for anyone smart enough to develop a skill and motivated enough to sidestep the automation technologies that are gutting various occupations: Get yourself longer lasting skills in a cognitively demanding occupation. Need to start small? Check out Udacity nanodegrees for commercially useful skill sets.

Anyone complacent about this? The need to plan your career and develop skills to keep you competitive has never been greater. It will be greater still as robots wipe out more categories of jobs.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 09 04:11 PM 
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2015 October 04 Sunday
Ross Douthat Asks: Is Putin Winning?

Ross Douthat takes a look at Russia's widening intervention in Syria from a distinctly American elite perspective. Lots of nuance here as usual. But he does not get to the meat of the matter and I disagree in a big way with his conclusion:

... what’s closer to his grasp is something more destructive — a wrecker’s legacy, not Peter the Great’s, in which his own people gain little from his efforts, but the world grows more unstable with every move he makes.

Wrecker's legacy? That's America we are talking about. The far more powerful United States of America surely already has a wrecker's legacy in the Middle East. Consider: The US invasion of Iraq resulted in ISIS slavery, ethnic slaughter, and crucifixions in Iraq and Syria with at least half of Iraq's Christians fleeing and Syrian Christians major shafted. The support Obama and Hillary Clinton showed for Arab Spring has resulted in Libya fragmented into warring tribal regions. We have gained nothing for our efforts and racked up huge losses. Obama's policies (or MSM punditry for that matter) show little sign of having learned anything important from all these disasters and policy failures

Make no mistake: US military intervention in and around the Middle East is a failure. Ross' own employer publishes gems like the ones in this article: "Caught off guard by the Taliban's capture of an entire city in northern Afghanistan" and "They are just not fighting very well". Did the US government expect them (Afghan government soldiers) to fight well? Same question about soldiers in Iraq and Syria trained by the US.

Think about it. America's military interventions in the Middle East are a disaster. America's goals in Syria are lunacy. Against this background how are Vladimir Putin's interventions going to play a wrecking role? The wrecking is already in full swing.

To see why Putin isn't going to wreck a good outcome first understand how constrained the realistic list of potential outcomes are and why. Here are four realistic posts about Syria from Anatoly Karlin. As his posts make evident, the topics you most need to learn about to understand US foreign policy failures in the Middle East are outside the bounds of what our MSM and foreign policy elite find acceptable for consideration.

A secular united democratic state equally protective of the rights of all citizens is not one of the potential futures in Syria. The beliefs and loyalties of people in Syria's main ethnic groups (especially the Sunnis) preclude that. We should approach Syria by asking how bad does its future have to be and what lesser evil outcome might be achievable. One problem is that the various factions do not trust each other with good reason. The largest ethnic group (Sunni Muslims) would surely shaft the rest of them if it came into power. Democratic rule is Sunni rule in Syria just as it is Shia rule in Iraq.

A Sunni government in Damascus would be worse than the Shia government in Baghdad toward its own Sunni minority. It is telling that ISIS, a Sunni group, has the most territory among the Sunni factions and its rule is horrible from a human rights standpoint. Child sex slaves anyone?

US policy has failed. By contrast, suppose Putin moderately succeeds in bucking up Assad's government in Damascus. Who benefits? Almost anyone in Syria who isn't a Sunni Muslim. Assad's government before the uprising was better than what is likely to replace it. Christians were in far better shape under Assad and Saddam Hussein than they are today in most of Syria and Iraq. This is rarely mentioned in the MSM. It is too counter-narrative. Christians today might be better off in the Kurdish zone of Iraq (which is de facto a separate state from the Baghdad government) than they were under Saddam. I'm not sure on that point. Yezidis in Iraq: Well, a lot more were alive under Saddam and few if any were sex slaves. Saddam was better for the Yezidis. How about the Armenians in the middle of Syria? Definitely were better off under Assad before they became surrounded by ISIS.

The implicit assertion that since Putin is a problem for US policy in the Middle East he must be a problem for a good outcome in the Middle East is quite wrong. US policy in the Middle East is broken and intellectually and morally bankrupt. US policy makes no sense. Its continued failure in spite of a huge military technological advantage is a testament to its bankruptcy.

Iraq and Syria need partition into more viable ethnic states. If policy makers in Washington DC became more realistic I do not know if this is an achievable option. But a united Syria and united Iraq as secular liberal democracies isn't a realistic future possibility.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 04 01:21 PM 
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2015 October 03 Saturday
International Cooperation Blossoms In Syria

First we had this: America's partner/ally/client Iraq (should I say Shia Iraq) is allying with other Shia states against Sunnis.

Iraq says it has reached a deal to share intelligence with Russia, Iran and Syria in the fight against ISIS militants.

Four countries learning to share and work together. International intra-ethnic cooperation is still possible.

But the Shia support comes from Lebanon and Afghanistan as well. Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, Iraqi Shiite militias, Afghan Shiite militias, and Iran government fighters are all coming together to fight on Assad's side with Russian air support.

I count Shia from 5 countries plus the help of Russian bombers and likely Russian soldiers on the ground fighting for the Alawites and Shiites. The Christians might benefit from the Russian presence. The Kurds might benefit too.

I bet many Sunnis and Sunni governments will be inspired to respond in kind.

As Anatoly Karlin points out with an ethnic map of Syria, the Syrian civil war is a war between ethnic and religious groups. Karlin also gets into why Arab armies perform so poorly.

I think the Shiite coalition is reasonable. The non-Sunnis do not want to be ruled by the Sunnis. The Sunnis think they've got God on their side. So do the Shias. What would be reasonable: partition Syria into ethnic states. The Kurds and Christians would certainly be better off and so would the Alawites.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 03 08:23 PM 
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2015 October 01 Thursday
Beheadings And Sex Slaves As Recruiting Tools

Doing it on Facebook. How ISIS recruits teens in America and other Western countries.

Beheadings communicate a form of validation to recruits, a demonstration of the unrivaled power of the new caliphate. In addition, some analysts see the group’s open trade in sexual slaves as a blatant and cynical recruitment tactic to increase the ranks of young male volunteers.

Seen in this light Mark Zuckerberg's efforts extend internet access to billions more people is great news for ISIS. Every new member of Facebook is another target for recruiting.

One might argue that we shouldn't let into America the sort of people who recruit for Jihad. But if one makes that sort of argument then one is clearly out of step with our elites. What our elites have gotten us into:

The FBI acknowledges that it has active investigations of Islamic extremists under way in all 50 states.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 01 09:01 PM 
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