Later On

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Extremism and extremists

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Nabeelah Jaffer, a former associate editor at Aeon and currently a PhD student at the University of Oxford, writes in Aeon:

A few years ago I discovered that my friend Tom was a white supremacist. This put me in a strange position: I am a Muslim and the daughter of immigrants. I am a member of one of the so-called invading groups that Tom fears and resents. He broadcasts his views from his social media accounts, which are a catalogue of aggrieved far-Right anger. One post warns ‘the Muslim invaders to keep their filthy hands off our women’. Another features a montage of black faces above the headline: ‘This is the white race after “diversity”.’ Underpinning this is a desperate resentment of ‘liberal Leftie attempts to control free speech’.

Tom has never mentioned any of these ideas to me; on the contrary, in person he is consistently warm and friendly. He vents his convictions only online, and it seems unlikely that he would ever translate them into violent actions. And yet much the same was once said of Thomas Mair, the 52-year-old from Birstall, a village in northern England, who spent time helping elderly neighbours tend to their gardens, and who in 2016 murdered the pro-immigration MP Jo Cox, while shouting: ‘This is for Britain!’ His actions were found to have been inspired by white supremacist ideology.

James Baldwin was right to say that ideas are dangerous. Ideas force people to confront the gap between their ideals and their manifestation in the world, prompting action. Ideas can prompt change for better or for worse – and often both at the same time. But attempts to create change are always charged with danger: to act in new ways is to erode old limits on our behaviour. In the forging of new territory – and the sense of danger that accompanies it – actions that might once have been deemed excessive can come to seem not merely necessary but normal.

But to understand what has led someone to extremism it is not enough to point to ideology. Ideas alone did not bring Mair to leave his home that morning with a sawn-off shotgun and a seven-inch knife. The accounts that emerged in the weeks after Cox’s murder dwelt on many details of Mair’s previously blameless life. But more than anything else, they repeatedly echoed the words of a woman who runs a meditation centre in Mair’s local area, which he visited the evening before he killed Jo Cox: ‘He just seemed a really lonely guy who wanted someone to talk to.’

It is worth knowing that my friend Tom finds little satisfaction in his daily life. He does not enjoy his work and has never had a romantic relationship. His part of Oxford is thick with cultural diversity but he has few friends there. A mutual friend once described Tom as seeming spiritually wounded. Like Mair, he exudes an aura of biting loneliness.

‘Loneliness is the common ground of terror’ – and not just the terror of totalitarian governments, of which Hannah Arendt was thinking when she wrote those words in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). It also generates the sort of psychic terror that can creep up on a perfectly ordinary individual, cloaking everything in a mist of urgent fear and uncertainty.

By ‘loneliness’ Arendt did not simply mean solitude, in which – as she points out – you have your own self for consolation. In the solitude of our minds, we engage in an internal dialogue. We speak in two voices. It is this internal dialogue that allows us to achieve independent and creative thought – to weigh strong competing imperatives against each other. You engage in it every time you grapple with a moral dilemma. Every clash of interests, every instance of human difference evokes it. True thought, for Arendt, involved the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. True loneliness, therefore, was the opposite. It involved the abrupt halting of this internal dialogue: ‘the loss of one’s own self’ – or rather, the loss of trust in oneself as the partner of one’s thoughts. True loneliness means being cut off from a sense of human commonality and therefore conscience. You are left adrift in a sea of insecurity and ambiguity, with no way of navigating the storms.

Adolf Eichmann was a senior SS officer who was involved first in the voluntary emigration of Jews, then in their forced deportation, and finally in their extermination. According to Arendt, Eichmann exhibited just such loneliness. He had an ‘almost total inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow’s point of view’ – to empathise in a way that would have meant stepping outside his own Nazi worldview. When questioned about his past by a Jewish policeman in Israel, he defaulted to self-pitying explanations about why he had not been promoted to a higher rank in the SS: ‘Whatever I prepared and planned, everything went wrong … whatever I desired and wanted and planned to do, fate prevented it somehow.’ As Arendt drily notes, it didn’t occur to Eichmann that his interviewer was unlikely to value a rapid rise through the ranks of the SS in the same way that Eichmann himself did.

It was loneliness, Arendt argued, that helped Eichmann and countless others – who might otherwise be models of amiability, kind to their subordinates and inferiors (as Eichmann was reported to be) – to give themselves over to totalitarian ideologies and charismatic strongmen. These totalitarian ideologies are designed to appeal to those who struggle with the internal moral dialogue that Arendt valued as the highest form of thought.

Totalitarian ideas offer a ‘total explanation’ – a single idea is sufficient to explain everything. Independent thought is rendered irrelevant in the act of joining up to their black-and-white worldview. Eichmann himself was always a ‘joiner’ who feared the possibility of ‘a leaderless and difficult individual life’. Becoming an ‘idealist’ assuaged these fears (the word is perhaps better read as ‘ideologue’). After all, if you sign up to the idea that class struggle, racial competition or civilisational conflict is absolute, then you can achieve meaning and kinship as part of a race, class or civilisation without ever requiring two-sided thought – the kind of thought that involves weighing competing imperatives and empathising with a range of people. For Arendt, the evils of the Final Solution were enacted by joiners such as Eichmann. It was pointless to argue with them that their logic was flawed, or that the facts of history did not support it. That wasn’t really why they had signed up to it in the first place.

The act of ‘joining up’ to an absolute ideology involves a kind of winnowing. It happens when someone begins to see the world through the lens of a single story. Friction with a teacher at school, or a struggle to find work, or a neighbourhood becoming more culturally mixed, or casual racism begin to seem like facets of one simple problem. And simple problems offer the alluring prospect of simple, radical solutions. If all our problems are simply part of a bigger story of an inevitable clash of civilisations between the West and Islam, then one has only to pick a side. It seemed to me that Tom – like Eichmann – had found his ideology, and had picked his side.

Of course, Tom is not alone. When I talk to him I am reminded of the young men and women I have interviewed who have expressed their sympathy and support for ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other violent terror groups. Like Eichmann, many were joiners, drawn to the binary answers and black-and-white worldview on offer. Not one of the jihadist supporters I got to know seemed inherently evil. But all of them viewed the world through jihadist clichés – they struggled with two-sided thought. The theme of turning away from ambiguity and empathy runs through jihadist propaganda. ISIS’s English-language magazine repeatedly criticised the ‘grayzone’ – a term used to describe anything that lay between their own ideology and that of the kuffar, or unbeliever. The epithet was often directed at the space of compromise that immigrants inhabit: between two cultures, two sets of values, and two ways of life. More than one ISIS supporter told me that the problem with Western Muslims was that ‘they are living in the grey area, confused, hesitant and ashamed of their Deen [religion]’.

To say that someone struggles with two-sided thought is not to say that he is stupid: Tom is an engineer by training, and many of the jihadist-sympathisers I have interviewed have had higher education. But they are thoughtless in that they neglect their capacity for independent thought in favour of total commitment to their chosen movement. Like Tom, most of these jihadist supporters had never taken any violent action. But many also mirrored Tom in their concrete adherence to a single ideological premise that seemed to them to explain the world. Like him, they believed that the West and Islam were two clear opposing entities engaged in an unstoppable war. They had simply chosen to support the other side.

If loneliness is the common ground of terror, then there is something fundamentally wrong with the way that we talk about extremism – particularly the jihadist variety. All too often it is viewed as a foreign threat: an infection from an alien civilisation.

Arendt suggested that certain kinds of solitude made people vulnerable to loneliness and therefore to terror. She drew particular attention to a structural problem: the ‘uprootedness and superfluousness’ of modernity. The breakdown of pre-modern political institutions and social traditions had created societies in which people had ‘no place in the world, recognised and guaranteed by others’, and – crucially – no sense of belonging. Society is the mirror in which we see ourselves. Finding our place within it – in ‘the trusting and trustworthy company of equals’ – helps us to understand our own identities, to know ourselves, and to trust our own thoughts. When we are excluded from society, we are vulnerable to the kind of fear and insecurity Arendt talked about. But while Arendt was thinking of alienation among the bourgeoisie, her words acutely describe another experience of not-belonging that is common in Western societies today.

Last year I interviewed someone currently undergoing trial for disseminating terror materials in the UK. As we talked, he returned again and again to a complaint that underpinned his interest in violent extremist materials.

‘I don’t have a place where I can say this is my place,’ he said. ‘A sense of belonging – we don’t have that.’ ISIS had gone a bit too far, he conceded, ‘but their idea of having a place like that – where we can belong…’ His face was bright and his smile was easy as he contemplated the idea. ‘That’s it, it’s as simple as that.’

Belonging – or rather its absence – is a common theme among extremists. Take the case of Abdullahi Yusuf – a Somali-born 17-year-old from Minnesota who tried to join ISIS in 2014 but was stopped at the border. Like so many young extremists, Yusuf was well-integrated into Western society. He had an American accent, loved NBC basketball and supported the Minnesota Vikings. But it is possible to be well-integrated and still feel as if you do not really belong. Yusuf had moved schools three times in a single year – once because the school had been abruptly shut without warning. He didn’t ‘know anyone successful’, as he told New York magazine in 2017, and – perhaps even more importantly – he felt as if there was no way to cling to his Somali and Muslim identity while also finding a place in the US. At his trial, Yusuf spoke about watching videos that told him ‘that Muslims shouldn’t live in the West, that it’s better for them to make a journey to an Islamic State … it’s a better place to live.’ By the time he watched them, he and his friends were ripe for the ideology on offer.

Difference always produces friction. But we rarely acknowledge that no problem of difference is one-sided: difference always involves two parties. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2018 at 10:57 am

What makes people distrust science? Surprisingly, not politics

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Bastiaan T Rutjens, an assistant professor at the psychology department of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, writes in Aeon:

Today, there is a crisis of trust in science. Many people – including politicians and, yes, even presidents – publicly express doubts about the validity of scientific findings. Meanwhile, scientific institutions and journals express their concerns about the public’s increasing distrust in science. How is it possible that science, the products of which permeate our everyday lives, making them in many ways more comfortable, elicits such negative attitudes among a substantial part of the population? Understanding why people distrust science will go a long way towards understanding what needs to be done for people to take science seriously.

Political ideology is seen by many researchers as the main culprit of science skepticism. The sociologist Gordon Gauchat has shown that political conservatives in the United States have become more distrusting of science, a trend that started in the 1970s. And a swath of recent research conducted by social and political psychologists has consistently shown that climate-change skepticism in particular is typically found among those on the conservative side of the political spectrum. However, there is more to science skepticism than just political ideology.

The same research that has observed the effects of political ideology on attitudes towards climate change has also found that political ideology is notthat predictive of skepticism about other controversial research topics. Workby the cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky, as well as research led by the psychologist Sydney Scott, observed no relation between political ideology and attitudes toward genetic modification. Lewandowsky also found no clear relation between political conservatism and vaccine skepticism.

So there is more that underlies science skepticism than just political conservatism. But what? It is important to systematically map which factors do and do not contribute to science skepticism and science (dis)trust in order to provide more precise explanations for why a growing number of individuals reject the notion of anthropogenic climate change, or fear that eating genetically modified products is dangerous, or believe that vaccines cause autism.

My colleagues and I recently published a set of studies that investigated science trust and science skepticism. One of the take-home messages of our research is that it is crucial not to lump various forms of science skepticism together. And although we were certainly not the first to look beyond political ideology, we did note two important lacunae in the literature. First, religiosity has so far been curiously under-researched as a precursor to science skepticism, perhaps because political ideology commanded so much attention. Second, current research lacks a systematic investigation into various forms of skepticism, alongside more general measures of trust in science. We attempted to correct both oversights.

People can be skeptical or distrusting of science for different reasons, whether it is about one specific finding from one discipline (for example, ‘The climate is not warming, but I believe in evolution’), or about science in general (‘Science is just one of many opinions’). We identified four major predictors of science acceptance and science skepticism: political ideology; religiosity; morality; and knowledge about science. These variables tend to intercorrelate – in some cases quite strongly – which means that they are potentially confounded. To illustrate, an observed relation between political conservatism and trust in science might in reality be caused by another variable, for example religiosity. When not measuring all constructs simultaneously, it is hard to properly assess what the predictive value of each of these is.

So, we investigated the heterogeneity of science skepticism among samples of North American participants (a large-scale cross-national study of science skepticism in Europe and beyond will follow). We provided participants with statements about climate change (eg, ‘Human CO2 emissions cause climate change’), genetic modification (eg, ‘GM of foods is a safe and reliable technology’), and vaccination (eg, ‘I believe that vaccines have negative side effects that outweigh the benefits of vaccination for children’). Participants could indicate to what extent they agreed or disagreed with these statements. We also measured participants’ general faith in science, and included a task in which they could indicate how much federal money should be spent on science, compared with various other domains. We assessed the impact of political ideology, religiosity, moral concerns and science knowledge (measured with a science literacy test, consisting of true or false items such as ‘All radioactivity is made by humans’, and ‘The centre of the Earth is very hot’) on participants’ responses to these various measures.

Political ideology did not play a meaningful role when it came to most of our measures. The only form of science skepticism that was consistently more pronounced among the politically conservative respondents in our studies was, not surprisingly, climate-change skepticism. But what about the other forms of skepticism, or skepticism of science generally?

Skepticism about genetic modification was not related to political ideology or religious beliefs, though it did correlate with science knowledge: the worse people did on the scientific literacy test, the more skeptical they were about the safety of genetically modified food. Vaccine skepticism also had no relation to political ideology, but it was strongest among religious participants, with a particular relation to moral concerns about the naturalness of vaccination.

Moving beyond domain-specific skepticism, what did we observe about a general trust in science, and the willingness to support science more broadly? The results were quite clear: trust in science was by far the lowest among the religious. In particular, religious orthodoxy was a strong negative predictor of faith in science and the orthodox participants were also the least positive about investing federal money in science. But notice here again political ideology did not contribute any meaningful variance over and beyond religiosity.

From these studies there are a couple of lessons to be learned about the current crisis of faith that plagues science. Science skepticism is  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2018 at 10:50 am

Once Militantly Anti-Abortion, Evangelical Minister Now Lives ‘With Regret’

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Terry Gross interview:

Evangelical minister Rob Schenck was once a militant leader of the anti-abortion movement, blockading access to clinics to prevent doctors and patients from entering.

But after more than 20 years in the movement, Schenck experienced a change of heart. Though firm in his evangelicalism, he has disavowed his militant anti-abortion stance.

“I live with regret,” he says of some of his former tactics. “I remember women — some of them quite young — being very distraught, very frightened, some very angry. Over time, I became very callous to that.”

Schenck now sees abortion as a moral and ethical issue that should be resolved by “an individual and his or her conscience” — rather than by legislation.

“This is not a question for politicians,” he says. “When your end goal is a political one, you will, without exception, exploit the pain and the suffering and the agony of those who face the issue in their daily reality, in their real life.”

Schenck describes his change in outlook as one of several “conversions” he has experienced as an evangelical Christian.

“Change is a part of the spiritual life,” he explains. “Anytime we stop changing, we stagnate spiritually, emotionally, intellectually; we stop growing.”

Schenck’s new memoir, Costly Grace, tells the story of the different phases of his religious and political life and explains why he changed — and how he now preaches a more inclusive message, embracing the people he once demonized.

Interview Highlights

On becoming an anti-abortion activist in 1988

There was a very close identification with the civil rights struggle, and I came to see this as a kind of civil rights struggle for the most vulnerable of human beings, those in the womb. And so as time went on, I embraced that. It took me a little while to become totally convinced of the rightness of that cause and I would take that into more than 20 years, actually 25 years, of activism.

On ways he and his fellow anti-abortion activists made it difficult for women seeking abortion

We engaged in mass blockades. Sometimes, we would have a dozen people in front of the doorways to a clinic. Other times, it would be hundreds. On occasion, we actually had thousands. And so we created human obstacles for those coming and going, whether they were the abortion providers themselves, their staff members, of course, women and sometimes men accompanying them that would come to the clinics. And it created a very intimidating encounter.

There were, of course, exceptions. There were women who would later thank us for being there. There were adoptions arranged where women would go through with their pregnancy, deliver their child, the child would be adopted through the pro-life network, but that was a relatively rare exception to the rule.

On reflecting on how his rhetoric while protesting abortion clinics and doctors may have contributed to the violence toward abortion providers, such as Dr. David Gunn, who was murdered in 1993; Dr. George Tillerwho was was wounded in 1993 and murdered in 2009; and Dr. Barnett Slepianwho was murdered in 1998

This became more about us, about me, about our need to win, to win the argument, to win on legislation, to win in the courts. I will tell you that my acceptance of that responsibility had to come only after a long period of reflective prayer, of listening deeply to those who were gravely affected by those murders, in therapy with my own — I will be careful to say — Christian therapist, who helped me come to terms with what really happened and how I may have contributed to those acts of violence through my rhetoric, and eventually in a confrontation, a very loving one but nonetheless an encounter, a very strong, very powerful encounter, with the relative of one of the doctors shot and stabbed. … And it was … actually at a Passover Seder table when I was confronted very gently and very lovingly by a relative who happened to be a rabbi of that one abortion provider. In that moment, I realized my own culpability in those in those terrible, terrible events.

On the evangelical support of Donald Trump . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 July 2018 at 9:15 am

New Study Confirms That American Workers Are Getting Ripped Off

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Eric Levitz writes in New York:

America’s unemployment rate is hovering near half-century lows. There are now more job openings than unemployed workers in the United States for the first time since the government began tracking that ratio. For America’s working class, macroeconomic conditions don’t get much better than this.

And yet, most Americans’ wages aren’t getting any better, at all. Over the past 12 months, piddling wage gains — combined with modest inflation — have left the vast majority of our nation’s laborers with lower real hourly earnings than they had in May 2017. On Wall Street, the second-longest expansion in U.S. history has brought boom times — in the coming weeks, S&P 500 companies will dole out a record-high $124.1 billion in quarterly dividends. But on Main Street, returns have been slim.

Economists have put forward a variety of explanations for the aberrant absence of wage growth in the middle of a recovery: Automation is slowly (but irrevocably) reducing the market-value of most workers’ skills; a lack of innovation has slowed productivity growth to a crawl; well-paid baby-boomers are retiring, and being replaced with millennials who have enough experience to do the boomers’ jobs — but not enough to demand their salaries.

There’s likely some truth to these narratives. But a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offers a more straightforward — and political — explanation: American policymakers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers desperate and disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders.

The OECD doesn’t make this argument explicitly. But its report lays waste to the idea that the plight of the American worker can be chalked up to impersonal economic forces, instead of concrete political decisions. If the former were the case, then American laborers wouldn’t be getting a drastically worse deal than their peers in other developed nations. But we are. Here’s a quick rundown of the various ways that American workers are getting ripped off:

American workers are more likely to be poor (by the standards of their nation). In the United States, nearly 15 percent of workers earn less than half of the median wage. That gives the U.S. a higher “low-income rate” than any other developed nation besides Greece and Spain.

We also get fired more often — and with far less notice. Roughly one in five American workers leave their jobs each year, a turnover rate higher than those in all but a handful of other developed countries. And as the Washington Post’s Andrew Van Dam notes, that churn isn’t driven by entrepreneurial Americans quitting to pursue more profitable endeavors:

[D]ecade-old OECD research found that an unusually large amount of job turnover in the United States is due to firing and layoffs, and Labor Department figures show the rate of layoffs and firings hasn’t changed significantly since the research was conducted.

Not only do Americans get fired more than other workers; we also get less warning. Every developed nation besides the U.S. and Mexico requires companies to give individual workers at least a week’s notice before laying them off; the vast majority of countries require more than a month. But if you’re reading this from an office in the U.S., your boss is free to tell you to pack your things at any moment.

Our government does less for us when we’re out of work than just about anyone else’s. Many European countries have “active labor market policies” — programs that provide laid-off workers with opportunities to train for open positions. The United States, by contrast, does almost nothing to help its unemployed residents reintegrate into the labor force; no developed nation but Slovakia devotes a lower share of its wealth to such purposes. Meanwhile, a worker in the average U.S. state will stop receiving unemployment benefit payments after they’ve been out of a job for 26 weeks — workers in all but five other developed countries receive unemployment benefits for longer than that; in a few advanced nations, such benefits last for an unlimited duration.

Labor’s share of income has been falling faster in the U.S. than almost anywhere else. Between 1995 and 2013, workers’ share of national income in the U.S. dropped by eight percentage points — a steeper decline that in any other nation except for South Korea and Poland.

And the American capitalist class has been claiming an exceptionally high share of national income for much longer than just two decades — as this stunning chart from the 2018 World Inequality Report makes clear:

 . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 July 2018 at 5:01 pm

The ‘supply-and-demand model of labor markets is fundamentally broken,’ and that’s why you’re not getting a pay raise anytime soon

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Jim Edwards writes in BusinessInsider:

  • We have full employment in the US and the UK but extremely low wage growth.
  • The “gig economy” is structured to keep wage levels down even when there are shortages of workers.
  • Underemployment — part-time work — has replaced the role that mass unemployment used to play in the US and the UK.
  • Work now creates inequality, and workers know they cannot get ahead merely by working.
  • That has political consequences: It makes the minimum-wage level one of the most important political issues.

Troy Taylor, the CEO of the Coca-Cola franchise for Florida, was asked at a recent conference of the Federal Reserve’s Dallas branch whether he expected pay raises in the future. The context to the question is that America has ultralow unemployment. In fact, it has even reached what policymakers consider to be full employment, in which essentially everyone who wants a job has one. Wages ought to be rising as workers take advantage.

But Taylor said he didn’t see wages going up anytime soon.

“It’s just not going to happen,” Taylor said. “Absolutely not in my business.”

The reason Taylor can be so confident is that employers — and, belatedly, economists — are waking up to the fact that the old-fashioned supply-and-demand model of the labor market is dead. Employers have gained enough power in the marketplace to permanently hold down wages, even when unemployment is as low as 3.9% in the US and 4.2% in the UK.

The old model was simple. It stated that the price of labor was set by supply and demand. If the supply of workers was restricted, wages would inevitably rise as workers switch jobs for better-paid positions or negotiate pay raises for staying.

Right now we are living through the most supply-restricted wage market since the 1970s. There just aren’t extra workers available. In the US, there are 6.7 million job openings but only 6.3 million people looking for work, according to the most recent government numbers.

Job vacancies in the UK are also at a record high. . .

So this ought to be a golden age for workers. Wages ought to be going up. Employees ought to be able to name their price. “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more” ought to be the national anthem.

And yet, in the US and the UK, wages are stagnant.

In May, wages for workers in the US rose just 0.1%. . .

It’s a similar picture in the UK, where year-on-year wage growth is about 2%. That’s roughly the same as inflation, meaning that real wages are flat.

Economists are starting to wake up to this strange phenomenon.

Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, wrote recently: “Astonishingly, real wages remain well below where they were a decade ago. We have not experienced anything like it for at least 150 years.” . . .

Continue reading.

And the government, controlled by the wealthy and by corporations, will not act. Voters and unions must wake up to the crisis. Blaming immigration will not fix it.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2018 at 5:25 pm

We Owe Central American Migrants Much More Than This

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Eric Levitz writes in New York:

There is now a broad, bipartisan consensus that ripping infants from their mothers — and then putting both in (separate) cages — is not a morally acceptable way of treating families who cross our southern border. After weeks of deliberation, our nation has concluded that Central American migrants do not deserve to have their children psychologically tortured by agents of the state.

But what they do deserve remains in dispute.

The White House contends that migrants have a right to be caged withtheir family members (except for those who have already been separated from their children, who aren’t necessarily entitled to ever see their kids again). But the judiciary says that child migrants have a right not to be caged, at all. And progressives seem to believe that these huddled masses are entitled to something more — though few have specified precisely what or why.

In defending its “zero tolerance” policy — which is to say, a policy of jailing asylum-seekers for the misdemeanor offense of crossing the U.S. border between official points of entry — the White House has implored its critics to consider the bigger picture: Such “illegal aliens” have already undermined the rule of law in our country, and brought drugs, violent crime, and MS-13 to our streets. Locking up their families might look cruel when viewed in isolation; but when understood in the broader context of a migrant crisis that threatens the safety and sovereignty of the American people, the policy is more than justified.

In reality, however, this narrative inverts the truth: Context does not excuse the cruelty of our government’s “zero tolerance” policy, it indicts that policy even further. The United States is not suffering a crisis that justifies radical measures; the Central American families gathered at our border are. And those families aren’t bringing crime and lawlessness to our country — if anything, we brought such conditions to theirs.

After all, it was the CIA that overthrew the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954, and thereby subjected its people to decades of dictatorship and civil war. It was the streets and prisons of California that gave birth to MS-13, and American immigration authorities that deported that gang back to El Salvador. And it is America’s taste for narcotics that sustains the drug trade in Honduras — and our war on drugs that ensures such trade is conducted by immensely profitable and violent cartels.

There is no easy answer to the Central American migrant crisis. But any remotely moral policy response will need to proceed from the recognition that we are not the victims of this crisis — and asylum-seekers are not its creators.

Central American families are not a threat to the United States.
It is very hard to make a reasoned case for why our nation’s current levels of undocumented immigration — or, of low-skilled immigration more broadly — represent major threats to the safety and material well-being of the American people.

We have long known that native-born Americans commit violent crimes at far higher rates than either legal or undocumented immigrants. And newer research into immigration and criminality has proven even more devastating to the nativists’ case: States with higher concentrations of undocumented immigrants tend to have lower rates of violent crime — and this correlation persists even when controlling for a given state’s median age, level of urbanization, and rate of unemployment or incarceration.

Meanwhile, the American economy is in great need of young, unskilled workers. On the Labor Department’s list of the 15 occupations that will experience the fastest growth over the next six years, eight require no advanced education. Further, with the baby-boomers retiring — and birth rates plummeting — the future of American economic growth, and the survival of Social Security, depends on an infusion of foreign workers. It is true that there is some basis for believing that mass, low-skill immigration depresses the wages of native-born high-school dropouts (although that claim is contentious). But there is no basis for believing that restricting immigration will do more to boost such workers’ take-home pay than encouraging unionization through labor-law reform, or expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Thus, given the positive material benefits of mass low-skill immigration, it is hard to see how more of it would constitute an economic crisis, even if we stipulate that it puts downward pressure on the wages of some native-born workers.

By contrast, the crisis facing the migrants themselves is wrenching and undeniable.

Asylum-seekers are fleeing violence and disorder, not exporting it.
To seek asylum in the United States, Central American families must travel many hundreds of miles through the desert, along a route teeming with rapists, thieves, and homicidal gangs. The hazards inherent to this journey aren’t unknown to most who take it — such migrants simply find the hazards of remaining in place more intolerable.

And that calculation isn’t hard to understand. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras endure some of the highest rates of violent crime — and levels of official corruption — of any nations in the world. As recently as 2015, El Salvador was the single-most violent country (that wasn’t at war) on planet Earth, with a homicide rate of 103 per 100,000. And the vast majority of those homicides went unpunished — according to a 2017 report from the Georgetown Security Studies Review, roughly 90 percent of murders throughout the Northern Triangle go unprosecuted. This lawlessness is both a cause and effect of widespread public distrust in state police forces, which are largely non-professionalized, frequently penetrated by criminal gangs, and historically associated with atrocities carried out in times of political unrest and civil war. . .

Continue reading.

There’s much more. Worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2018 at 2:01 pm

The backstory of an interesting campaign video that reflects the chasm between Democrats and Establishment Democrats

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Fascinating report in the Intercept by Zaid Jilani (and it includes the brief video and a good description of what that video represents). Here’s the 2-minute video:

And if you’re intrigued, as I was, here are other videos of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—making speeches, campaigning, etc.

And if you want to donate to her campaign, you can do that at her campaign website. Full disclosure: I did donate.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 June 2018 at 6:35 am

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