Monday, May 23, 2016

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Activist Lies

There's a problem with a number of sources of "journalism" today, and it isn't the usual suspects in the right wing politicized echochamber that seems to desire nothing but the election of their team.

What thankfully limits a lot of extreme rhetoric is that it is shamelessly political. There are indeed people that think men screaming on talk radio or television qualifies as news, but that society seems to more or less work is some evidence that this is not a majority viewpoint.

Often more frustrating is how popular "legitimate" news sources, "concerned" community organizations, "social justice" activists and issues-based activist organizations that have used "the facts" and "data" to create ideas that are plainly lies.

Here are only a few of them:

The Lie: "Toddlers kill more Americans than Islamists."


Where it comes from and why it's a lie: This was "true" for a 5 month span of 2016. Turns out America has existed outside 2016, and the claim is a ridiculous lie. Yet it turns out the Mic article was plagiarism of a dumb idea, as Benjamin Powers announced weeks before the San Bernardino attacks that toddlers had somehow killed more in 2015. 

Who's spreading it: Linda Sarsour, Zak Cheney-Rice, Reza Aslan and the Edmonton Public Library, Benjamin Powers. Meanwhile, Saladin Ahmed thinks there are more astronauts than American victims of terrorism.



The Lie: "94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims."

Where it comes from and why it's a lie: 
  • The data is compiled using a FBI table that uses a very dictionary definition of terrorism, that cites bloodless attacks from "Earth Liberation Front" and "Animal Liberation Front" about 40 times, yet cites 9/11 as a single line item. Pretending that the crimes in the table are similar is to play a semantic game that is insulting, cynical and dismissive.
  • Even if the data had meaning, was accurate, and counting by event instead of fatality was somehow useful - it's still absurd that a subset of 1% of the American population would be responsible for 4% of the count.

Who's spreading it: Dean Obeidallah, Sally Kohn and a number of other idiots talking about "FBI statistics on terrorism".



The Lie: "Right-wing extremists have killed more Americans since 9/11 than Islamists have."

Where it comes from and why it's a lie: 
  • It's misleading to exclude 9/11, USS Cole, 1993 WTC bombing, and other events arbitrarily as there's no indication that Islamism is somehow "over". 
  • It combines a heterogeneous set of extremists and motivations (tax protesters, "pro-life" terrorists, racist groups, non-Islamist anti-semitic attacks) gives them a single label and compares them against a more ideologically uniform group of jihadis.
  • It isn't actually true. If one looks at murders of Americans only on American soil, "right-wing extremists" win by a marginal amount - about 3 murders out of about 50 total for each group. Once one includes American citizens travelling abroad (for example, visiting a club in Bali), the situation changes drastically, with Islamists killing at least twice as many Americans as everyone else combined. 
    • There have been higher estimates than 50 domestic deaths due to right-wing extremists, cited in studies by outlets like ThinkProgress. But these higher estimates (sometimes running into the hundreds) do not actually happen to list what has qualified as a domestic terrorist. (Perhaps armed toddlers?)
Who's spreading it: Most notably, The New York Times.



The Lie: "1 in 5 women on campus are raped"

Where it comes from and why it's a lie: This manipulation is constructed by first doing a study of women, asking if they have experienced "forced kissing" or "unwanted touching" of a sexual nature. Then, when around 20% say yes, the study authors categorize these experiences as "sexual assault" even though the surveys typically ask no such question explicitly. Finally, the waters are muddied further by treating "sexual assault" and "rape" interchangeably. It's like a game of telephone, but played deliberately to generate a "feminist" call to action.

Who's spreading it: Salon, The Guardian, and almost all "feminist" blogs - people like Jessica Valenti be found mixing definitions to suit their ideology.




The Lie: "Only 2% of rape allegations are false."

Where it comes from and why it's a lie: The statistic is typically created by asking different law enforcement organizations (like the FBI or CPS) how many prosecutions were based on malicious falsehoods which are crimes in themselves. The numbers floating around are then anywhere from 1% to 8%, depending on the source of the data and which part of the criminal justice process is being examined. Whatever the statistic cited, the reality is that the veracity of rape allegations cannot be perfectly examined in the justice system (i.e. a failed prosecution is not going to be counted as as a false allegation unless absolutely proven so) and the vast majority of infamous cases in recent memory are not actually documented in the criminal justice system - instead, they are subject to the law of Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.

Who's spreading it: Whoever still thinks Rolling Stone was correct about anything at all.




Where are the corrections?

Lies on the internet are not a new thing and not something to lose one's mind about. However what is very disappointing about this particular collection of "facts" is that this phenomenon is not limited to forwarded emails from a grandparent that has been debunked on Snopes or long understood to be an urban legend. These lies are intentionally written and published by people that seem to want to be taken seriously. Crafted by minds that have been formed by decades of expensive schooling. These kids on the edge of seventeen are a generation's investment.

Some of these champions of reason even accepted debt to ultimately not have a primary school grasp of percentages, comparisons and basic kindness. Clearly what these "journalists" fail to understand is that while it would be understandable to spread misinformation as a funny meme on an anonymous message board - after all, no one expects a pseudonym to be charitable - it is something entirely different to sign off on an "insight" in one's own name.

While these hacks believe themselves to be snarky witnesses of important social change, they spawn entirely new problems from their ignorance and failure to recognize truth from petty political soundbites. It is a nihilistic journalism where numbers really do not matter and retractions do not exist - all that matters is a climax, an orgasmic drop of "truth bomb" at a faceless opponent that is not "woke" enough. One need not play this game wherein players only love one while they are playing.

You can go your own way, go your own way.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Latest in Penis Science

NYTimes has run a piece in its health blog, titled : "Should You Circumcise Your Baby Boy?" and oft subtitled as "Why Science Can’t Help You Much in Deciding on Circumcision"

It's the usual mix of "maybe circumcision has some health benefits!" evangelism, the highlights of actual facts being:

  1. "100 boys would need to be circumcised to prevent one urinary tract infection."
  2. "more than 300,000 infants might need to be circumcised to prevent one case of penile cancer."
  3. There is no benefit regarding HIV transmission rates, as surveys in African countries facing very specific public health issues do not magically apply equally well to every population around the globe
  4. "Surgical complications, while rare, are greater than zero."

This is the same nonsense that has floated around Slate, NPR, the CDC and every other organization looking for an excuse to explain bizarre American medical practices. (Who doesn't love American exceptionalism?)

The odd thing about author Aaron Carroll's contribution to this "debate", is how the talk of science is dealt the obvious religious trump card.

All cards on the table: I’m Jewish, and I’m circumcised, as are both my sons. The procedure has a spiritual weight in my community. When confronted by people who use terms like mutilation, I generally recoil. Circumcising my boys was a personal decision for my wife and me, and I understand the various arguments for and against. People angry about this choice seem to imagine that we haven’t thoroughly considered it.

Yes, this covenant with the almighty God is a contract that needs to see some cut foreskin of an infant or else... something bad will happen. Soon after sharing the article, the author tweets "Today has been another lesson for me that antisemitism is still alive and well."

Within the space of a few hours a headline that is supposedly related to medical science is now about religious bigotry. "Intactivists" may be disregarded until they somehow prove themselves sufficiently tolerant of religious argumentation.

The odd thing about Aaron Carroll's evangelism is that Carroll includes nearly every datapoint about circumcision he could find - except for the many documented cases of infection (and even death) after an unusual bris still practiced in extremely religious communities. It's not clear whether Aaron Carroll thinks this should remain legal or not.

It could be that Aaron Carroll not only thinks metzitzah b'peh should remain legal, but also billable to one's insurance provider. Surely anything as much as co-pay would be antisemitic.

And the final paragraph -
Given that religion and culture are tied up in this, it’s clear that this issue won’t be decided soon. It’s also clear that evidence won’t make anyone’s choice easier. In the end, the decision as to whether parents opt to have their babies circumcised will remain a personal one.

This conclusion makes a mockery of the definition of what qualifies as a "personal decision".

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mehdi Hasan's Multiculturalism

Mehdi Hasan is by many measures a great journalist working at Al Jazeera - or at least a decent interviewer, as witnessed in the pinned tweet of his interview with a Saudi ambassador. It's challenging, fast, immensely watchable and entertaining.

Yet commentary from Hasan is at times a bit odd - out of loyalty or agreement Hasan is found endorsing other "insights" from the network that employs him, and Hasan is often writing some rather ridiculous opinion articles.

One of the most recent is a victory lap made about Sadiq Khan's mayoral win, entitled "Sadiq Khan and the Future of Europe".

Some questionable observations:

Islamophobes are tearing their hair out as they decry the Islamization of Britain. But for all the Muslim baiting, London’s new mayor is part of an encouraging trend. He’s just the latest in a series of observant Muslims who have captured the hearts and minds of the British public. Last October, 14.5 million Britons tuned in to watch the smiling, hijab-clad Nadiya Hussain, the daughter of a waiter from Bangladesh, as she was crowned champion of “The Great British Bake Off,” a TV show. In April, Riyad Mahrez, who was born in Paris to an Algerian father and a Moroccan mother, was awarded the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year trophy after scoring 17 goals for Leicester City, which went on to a surprise victory in the Premier League championship.
In a perfect world, the faith of a TV cooking show star, an athlete or even a major politician would be irrelevant. But in our deeply imperfect — and, yes, Islamophobic — world, it isn’t. British newspapers are filled with alarmist headlines about “Muslim sex grooming” and “the rise in Muslim birthrate.” Earlier this year, Trevor Philips, the former chairman of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, accused Britain’s Muslims of “becoming a nation within a nation.”
It’s harder to say that now. The tide is turning in the toxic debate on Islam, integration and multiculturalism. As Mr. Khan told Time magazine, the best way to fight extremism is to “say to youngsters you can be British, Muslim and successful” and to “point to successful British role models,” like Zayn Malik, a pop star, and Mo Farah, an Olympic gold medal-winning runner. London’s new mayor may become the ultimate role model. I imagine Muslim parents across Britain are now reciting Sadiq Khan’s name to their kids. It’s one thing to celebrate the Muslim winner of a reality TV show; quite another to have a Muslim elected to one of the highest offices in the land.
Mr. Khan’s resounding victory was a stinging rebuke to the peddlers of prejudice. Here is a Muslim who prays and fasts and has gone on the hajj to Mecca. But he sees no contradiction in being a card-carrying liberal, too. As a member of Parliament, he voted — despite death threats from Islamist extremists — in favor of same-sex marriage and he campaigned to save a local pub in his constituency from closure. He has pledged to serve as a “feminist mayor” of London and made his first public appearance after the election at a Holocaust memorial service.
This sounds like an ode to tolerance, a celebration of multiculturalism. But it is nothing of the sort.

The message this is saying is that muslims can be clean-shaven, pro-gay marriage, pub-loving former members of One Direction that can bake a good cake - just like everyone else, and just like we want them to. This is the polar opposite of religious diversity and makes a mockery of what being "observant" can possibly mean.

In this view, multiculturalism is nothing more than spicy flavors of a secular liberal theme. If this is what multiculturalism is to be, then even "Islamophobes" can be found encouraging this goal. As it is, there are plenty of gay men that would not mind sharing a kiss in a halal grocery. The problem with this is however obvious to all those existing outside a Labour party ukulele sing-along.

While Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have declared multiculturalism a failure, the truth is that their countries, Germany and France, have never tried it. As Tariq Modood, the author of “Still Not Easy Being British,” writes, multiculturalism is the “political accommodation of difference.” For the French, however, difference has never even been tolerated, much less accommodated. In contrast, British-style multiculturalism has treated integration, as even David Cameron conceded almost a decade ago, as “a two-way street” and never required, in the words of Will Kymlicka, the author of “Multicultural Odysseys,” that “prior identities” must “be relinquished” in order to build a national identity.

The claim that Germany and France have "never tried" multiculturalism is completely baseless and non-evidenced, and in this very paragraph it shows that "multiculturalism" is a self-contradictory moving target. Saying that France does not tolerate difference is quite a bold claim after just celebrating all the successful muslims in Britain that happen to think like all the other people - so much so that the rest of the population has elected one mayor of London.

Is it surprising that polls find that British Muslims are more patriotic and take more pride in their national identity than their non-Muslim counterparts and studies show that ethnic and religious segregation in Britain is either steady or in decline?

This is funny as most polls of muslims that are released are dismissed as soon as it's discovered that the muslim population might be a little bit more conservative than Jeremy Corbyn. Now apparently a survey that is valid is one that would compare British patriotism with German.

For quite some time Britain has possibly had a more established sense of self - Britain has James Bond & #Brexit. Britain is the Texas of Europe, and this self-assured attitude without a doubt has an impact on the muslim population.

Meanwhile, Germany was literally in pieces until the '90s, has an incredible skepticism of its own nationalism (for many good 20th century reasons) and perhaps harbours a sense of obligation to the balkanized* mess that is the continent of Europe.

But it's true - if living in the bounds of London manages to instill an immense sense of pride, self-worth and entitlement to a diverse-while-rich-and-socialist population, maybe multiculturalism will work after all.

* - Balkanized : synonym for multicultural

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Where was the white dude radicalized? Absurdity from Al Jazeera and CAIR

Oftentimes apologia in favor of Islam tends to distance Islamist radicals from Islam - that is, the radicals are not following a "true" Islam. The violence inspired by a distorted view of religion that is created by extremists. They are said to spread their ideology through propaganda, or "radicalization".

Recently this has morphed into an argument that attempts to even undermine this idea, going as far as to deny that radicalization is a reality.

The most abrasive and full-throated argument in favor of this idea was run by AJ+, titled "You know that whole "Muslim radicalization idea"? Yeah, it's a myth". After some snarky comments the "points" are made:
"No one asks "where was he radicalized?" when a white dude goes on a shooting spree in a school or theater. White men have been responsible for 64% of mass shootings in this country since 1982."
"And they get the privilege of being lone wolf shooters or mentally ill shooters or "alienated and adrift" shooters"
"There's not much talk about how the real domestic threat to national security are right-wing anti-government groups. And the President hasn't been telling white people there hasn't been "enough pushback against extremism" in their communities." 
"And there's no set criteria for what the "process of radicalization" looks like, or even what "radical" actually is."
[ some explanation of each recent Islamist attacker being considerably different in behavior] 

"With the Boston bombers, we obsessed over Tamerlan Tsarnaev's YouTube History. With the Paris attackers, we focused on gay bars, alcohol - implied promiscuity. And with San Bernardino's Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik we obsessed over Malik becoming more and more religious."

"So is radicalization being religious or not? Is it having anti-U.S. foreign policy views? Is it being isolated from society?"
"In the U.S., you can't be prosecuted for your speech - even if your views are extreme and really gross - except in very specific, hard to prove cases. So yeah, the Constitution protects your right to be a Nazi, to say anti-black crap, it even protects your right to advocate for consensual love between a grown man and a child."

"Because views aren't actions. Actions can be criminal, but views? Nope."
"And continuing to talk about radicalization without any set criteria, and targeting only Muslims when we talk about radicalization, makes anything and everything Muslims do suspect."

"So you get programs like CVE. You get survelliance in mosques, homes, businesses. You get 15,000 informants nationwide, and you get a community that has some serious trust issues."
"And then we get shocked that we have Presidential candidates openly calling for patrols in "Muslim neighborhoods", for banning Muslims from the country and issuing special IDs to Muslims."
"So maybe it's time to rethink the poorly defined language that we use and how poorly defined language creates programs, policies, and dangerous misunderstandings that have an effect on the lives of millions in this country." 
"How's that for a radical idea?"

There are several sophistries in Sana Saeed's speech here, in defiance of basic math and Saeed's own feelings on "radicalization". Some quotes in the video cite the work of Imraan Siddiqi - a local CAIR director constantly tweeting his perceptions of anti-muslim bias in the media.

Much of the dialogue makes one think of Potter Stewart's "I know it when I see it", as nearly every argument is undermined if one is willing to admit that concepts such as "radicalization" do not need outlined in infinite legalese in order to be useful.

Let's get into some realities:

  • White men accounting for 64% of mass shootings is actually surprisingly low, given that white people account for over 70% of America's population
    • Note: If one is thinking "but white males would be 35% of the population!", one needs to revisit basic math and realize that mass shootings do not have equitable gender balance - by a wide margin.
  • White male non-muslim mass shooters happen to have the "privilege" of being called "lone wolf" by usually not having co-conspirators
    • Where was the Unabomber caliphate?
    • Did Adam Lanza have friends that drove him around post-attack?
  • At no point did the United States government decide that the "real threat" was right-wing militias. Naturally authorities with a entirely domestic mandate in places such as Oklahoma City and Waco are particularly interested in "home grown" threats, but this does not mean that the executive branch of the government has arrived at some secret consensus that Islamism could be described as "overhyped".
These points aside, it turns out the video makes arguments so tenuous that writers at The Intercept, an organization famous for being incredibly critical of the United States government, found the content lacking:



As evidence of The Intercept's standing as one of the "good guys" against "Islamophobia", Saeed felt obligated to engage with Hussain's criticisms:



This is a demonstration of both the comical hyperfocus on statistics concerning the United States - this is a game played by many other people advocating for "understanding" of Islam. More than that, it is incredible laziness as it is not at all difficult to determine just how massively overrepresented the muslim community is within the count of terrorist attacks if one is willing to accept Islamists as muslim instead of using weasel words and moving definitions to suit themselves.

Muslims comprise about 1% of the American population. If one includes 9/11, by death toll this 1% is responsible for nearly all domestic fatalities caused by terrorist attacks.

If one forgets 9/11 - as even the New York Times is eager to forget - the numbers are still absurd. Jihadists are responsible for as many domestic fatalities as all other terrorist attacks combined. If one counts American citizens vacationing or working abroad (as one should), then the picture is even more gloomy as jihadists are then killing twice as many as the "real threats" that the AJ+ video laments.

Indeed, if one adds up all the killings due to klan members, nazis, anti-abortion nutjobs, tax protesters, anarchists, communists and ecoterrorists, the death toll still does not match the impact of jihadists domestically. This is an amazing fact.

1% of the American population is responsible for the same number of killings as the other 99%. The muslim community is then a 1%, except nobody is occupying wall street yet.

"Comparative ratio", indeed.

If Sana Saeed was content enough to ignore the math and disregard simple truths so much as to annoy even liberal writers, that would be bad enough. The worst part is that people like Sana Saeed do not actually believe what they say about "radicalization".

As it stands, this is what Sana Saeed really believes about extremist views:



 Apparently one is supposed to believe that radicalization is a "myth", and CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) programs are nonsense - while simultaneously understanding that the some combination of Trump/Tea Party/islamophobes are extremist groups radicalized by some combination of Fox News / Maajid Nawaz / Richard Dawkins / Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani.

How is this irony and hypocrisy missed?

And as it turns out, people are constantly asking each other "where were these white people radicalized?" and mass marketing the idea that the source of the mass extremism is a relatively small set of pundits and media outlets. (Maybe it's even a Christian Republican Zionist plot! Wake up, America!) This is not much different than saying that Islamism comes from a relatively small number of religious ideologues and schools of thought.

Even the concept of informants has been constantly rubber-stamped, as it's a widespread fantasy that information about vile djinn like Roger Ailes or David Koch would happen to wiki-leak its way into the press.

Imraan Siddiqi and Sana Saeed are seemingly two people that would read headlines about the Panama Papers and still somehow find the time to criticize the use of informants within muslim communities. Informants in banks and governments are automatically regarded as heroes while informants in a religious community - no matter what community - are thought to be capitalist and traitorous narcs. This assessment will be made without much evidence to support it, as the people of this opinion have already picked their team and feel obligated to defend it no matter how many cafes explode.

Maybe instead of reflexively and relentlessly propagandizing against "Islamophobia", one could take the time to do the work. Make the numbers make sense, avoid whataboutery, build sound arguments instead of semantic puzzles, and truly live as one preaches.

How's that for a radical idea?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Toddler Taliban: Silly Comparisons from Zak Cheney-Rice and Linda Sarsour

Recently, Linda Sarsour shared a seemingly illuminating article written by Zak Cheney Rice:



The article is amazingly and shamelessly titled, "In 2016, Toddlers Have Shot More People in the US Than Muslim Terrorists Have".

The article continues:
According to the Washington Post, our nation's nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.
[...]

Then there's the other problem: Muslims in America haven't been afforded nearly the same benefit of the doubt as their diaper-wearing counterparts.
[...]
Despite Muslim terrorists having killed nobody in the U.S. in 2016, Muslims across the country are routinely made to suffer due to Islamophobic perceptions. There are now at least six documented incidents of Muslims being removed from commercial airline flights since November because their fellow passengers felt threatened by them — including an Iraqi refugee who got kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight in April because a woman heard him speaking Arabic on the phone and got scared.

Apparently one is "islamophobic" is one is not prepared to literally treat muslims like big babies. At this point, this whataboutery is not unique, it fits a formula that has been well regurgitated among "liberal" blogs.

The template is as follows:
  1. Nonsensical focus on concerns in the United States
  2. Cynical comparisons that apply only to Islamists
  3. Gross errors of category and logic
  4. Application of a completely meaningless timescale

 Let's go over each point.

Nonsensical focus on concerns in the United States

Ultimately every liberal "Islamism is a problem but what about this?" blog is about the United States. It's about the United States because the United States is a western nation with many complex social problems and one populous enough (over 300 million people) to allow for every absurd improbable scenario to be witnessed dozens of times in a given year.

Nevermind that Islamism is itself a multifaceted problem with global negative impact that extends beyond simple casualty numbers in the metro area of Omaha Nebraska. The grand comedy is that it's absolutely okay to ignore outcomes for non-Americans if it makes Americans appear paranoid and xenophobic.

Cynical comparisons that apply only to Islamists

Nobody is writing a liberal thinkpiece about how toddlers have killed more Americans than North Korea, the Klan, Craig Hicks, or pro-life activists. These absurd comparisons of death counts to nearly every social ill only apply to Islamists, as establishments like ThinkProgress, Mic and Salon are still willing to cash in on page views on this nonsense as too many otherwise educated people are led to believe that these are deep truths.

Ironically, an article complaining about the dangers of Islamophobia neglects to mention that toddlers have also killed more people than Islamophobes. In spite of this obvious question, the crisis at hand is apparently a few people missing their flights due to a misunderstandings and then being adequately compensated for their trouble.

Gross errors of category and logic

The comparison of toddler accidents and Islamist attacks aims to treat Islamism like the weather - as if the public should pay it no heed as "bad things happen". Islamism is to be treated as a new normal part of daily life, like car accidents. Conveniently ignored for the sake of argument is the enormous superstructures of engineering and bureaucracy built even to avoid typical threats like fatalities due to accidents on the roads and elsewhere. The story is that Americans are not focused on the "real threats", no matter how much diligence and effort is spent on these endeavors.

In addition to this, the reality is that Islamists are people with capabilities that may prove to be unbounded. Nobody has any reason to believe the vile murderous toddlers of America will be emboldened by their early success with living room pistols and find the courage to hijack planes, assemble improvised explosive devices and establish nations of barbaric fantasy in power vacuums in the mid east.

Application of a completely meaningless timescale

The most famous and widely used timescale is "after 9/11". The words "after 9/11" are usually followed by numbers games played by people with no background in statistics, or perhaps even addition.

However there is a certain chutzpah in using a timescale that this article uses, which uses a span from January 1, 2016 to May 1, 2016 based on some article unrelated to Islamism published by the Washington Post.

It is, apparently, 2016. As such, all 2015 datapoints are sooooooo last year.

In this timespan, toddlers shot 23 - a number that includes the toddlers themselves - and as a result caused 11 fatalities. Nine of the 11 were the toddlers.

Let's ignore the self-inflicted nature of injury and assume that toddlers were going to kill 11 other people consistently over every 121 day span.

It would take toddlers:
  • 132 days to match Charlie Hebdo fatality count
  • 154 days to match San Bernardino fatality count 
  • 4 years to match November 2015 Paris attacks fatality count 
  • 6 years to match Bali bombing fatality count 
  • 6 years and 9 months to match Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings fatality count 
  • 90 years to match the 9/11 fatality count
  • 566 years and 5 months to match ISIS' fatality count in Iraq
Despite this, it must be decided that the true threat to modern safety is the hedonists in Huggies, the prophets of the Pampers waiting to for their millenium to wage a final war of wipes and rightfully claim the world that the gracious Gerber god has granted them.

Psycho killer, Qu'est-ce que c'est?

#justsaying

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Literally Every Muslim Country

In an impassioned takedown of Sally Kohn's rhetoric, the following statement was made in a previous post:

"Literally every muslim country on the planet is embroiled in conflict, and the problem is so dire that Nobel prizes are given to anybody that is willing to put down a gun or fortunately managed to survive an assassination attempt."

A conscientious reader objected - it must be noted that challenges like these is what makes writing interesting in the first place:


Even if we consider countries with "skirmishes and clashes that kill less than 100 people a year" to be "at conflict," there are still plenty of Muslim-majority countries that aren't at conflict. Just to name a few: Albania, Morocco, Malaysia, Jordan, Oman, Mauritania, Senegal, and Kazakhstan.
If we use a more sensible definition and only consider conflicts that kill at least 1,000 people in a year, then only about 10 out of the 50 Muslim-majority countries in the world are in conflict. That's terrible, but to say that "ever Muslim country in the world is in conflict" is still beyond ridiculous.


While the reasonable thing to do would be to backtrack from the possibly exaggerated use of the word "literally", the entertaining thing to do is to double-down and defend the idea that indeed literally every muslim country has a real problem with Islamist conflict.

For example, Senegal arrested 500 people while investigating a network related to attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso. Typically the detention of 500 people can reasonably be labelled a "conflict".

As for Morocco, it's own share of Islamist terror attacks. Authorities in Morocco, a country of only 30 million and the ancestral home of the Brussels attackers, are probably not waiting until the death toll reaches 1000 annually to realize that it has a problem. Similarly, few are planning a destination wedding in Jordan.

Mauritania had a coup d'├ętat in 2008, killed some French tourists in 2007, and blew up bombs outside the French embassy in 2009.

Kazakhstan manages Islamists by deporting people that it thinks proselytize too much. The approach taken is not too far from that of neighboring Tajikistan, which apparently took to shaving the beards of 13,000 to battle "radicalism". Apparently a nation can become an idyllic Islamic republic by managing religion as Donald Trump would.

It is true that Malaysia is quite peaceful, which can be credited to Malaysia's vigilance, tolerance, and success in keeping Valentine's day in check.

Last on the list of muslim countries that apparently have their head on straight are Oman and Albania, accounting for a sum total of six million people existing in comically dysfunctional states.

Given all this, it seems more than fair to describe the entire muslim world as a series of countries that are failed states. A nation in this set can only qualify as a success story when viewed in the "context" of the disaster that surrounds many of them. That is, good marks are only granted when graded on the curve made only of other muslim nations.

Perhaps it is unfair to say "literally every muslim country is embroiled in conflict". More accurate may be to say "literally every muslim country is embroiled in careless corrosive chauvinist corpulence".

View of countries aside, the comment also contained a criticism of the claim that 1% of Belgian muslim men of fighting age have joined ISIS:

Your calculations assume that Belgian Muslims have the same age distribution as the general Belgium population. Given that A) many Belgian Muslims are immigrants and B) Belgian Muslims have a higher birth rate than non-Muslim Belgians, that is almost
certainly incorrect.

Also, given that 2/3 of American and 31% of British Islamic terrorists have been converts, it seems likely that a significant portion of Belgian ISIS fighters weren't Muslim before they joined ISIS.
Absolutely correct - if the Belgian muslim population is not fixed to the Belgium's published population pyramid, then the calculation changes. And born-again bombers do change the calculations even more. This is even more reason for papers to do the "problematic" math and gather the relevant data instead of merely chanting about the moderate "1.6 billion muslims" that are said to exist some number of thousands of miles away.

An analysis of converts would be particularly interesting, as it may turn out that the number of David Headleys and Jihad Johns far outnumber the "marginalized" fighters that liberal journalists like to believe inhabit Islamist circles.

It is not recommend to hold one's breath while waiting for these survey results.

Fixing the New York Times' stupid chart

For quite some time the New York Times has been a fan of a specific visualization that it hopes explain the threat Islamists pose to Americans.

The visual:



The big absurdity in this is that the assumption is that Americans don't exist outside the bounds of the United States. In reality, Americans register about 30 million overseas trips a year. That's about the entire state of Texas deciding to hop on a plane and leave the continent, every single year.

So what happens when one starts counting American citizens killed abroad by jihadists?

A short crappy analysis of recent attacks globally (fixed to NYTimes' timescale) and excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, yields the following table of fatalities which is definitely an underestimate:

2002 Bali Bombings (7)
2002 Daniel Pearl (1)
2002 Zamboanga City bombings (1)
2003 Riyadh car bombings (9)
2004 Riyadh compound bombings (9)
2004 Shooting in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia (2)
2005 Bali bombings  (6)
2006 Karachi car bombing (David Foy) (1)
2008 Mumbai attacks (David Headley charged with killing 6) (6)
2012 Yemen shooting of English teacher (1)
2012 Benghazi (4)
2015 Bombing in Garoowe, Somalia (1)
2015 November Paris attacks (1)
2016 Brussels attacks (2)
2016 Tel Aviv knife attack (1)

Adding this to the NYTimes data, we get the following yearly running total counts:

2002 : 2 domestic + 9 overseas = 11
2003: 2 domestic + 18 overseas = 20
2004: 2 domestic + 27 overseas = 29
2005: 2 domestic + 33 overseas = 35
2006: 3 domestic + 34 overseas = 37
2007: 3 domestic + 34 overseas = 37
2008: 3 domestic + 40 overseas  = 43
2009: 17 domestic + 40 overseas = 57
2010: 17 domestic + 40 overseas = 57
2011: 17 domestic + 40 overseas = 57
2012: 17 domestic + 45 overseas = 62
2013: 21 domestic + 45 overseas  = 66
2014: 26 domestic + 45 overseas = 71
2015: 45 domestic + 48 overseas = 93
2016: 45 domestic + 51 overseas = 96

The actual graph then becomes something like: (Islamist attack fatalities in green)



The takeaway is that jihadis domestically killed as many as every other group of nutjobs combined, (racists, anti-abortionists, tax protesters...) and then managed at least double their casualty count in operations overseas. 

Hopefully one cannot be blamed for not having a New York Times graphics department to select the correct tone, hue and beautifully stitch the line together. Much more time was invested in actually compiling and thinking about the data, and even then the information is full of omissions - both accidental (the count of overseas deaths is actually closer to 87 when using Department of State data, eyeballing Wikipedia data is what resulted in a count of 51) and intentional.

An example of such intentional omission, in this chart and New York Times', is the deaths of Leila Mazloum, Leila Taleb, Hussein Mostapha. They were residents of Dearborn, Michigan that were killed in a bombing in Lebanon in 2015 -- however these deaths do not actually count. They do not count as the bombing did not happen in Michigan, and they do not count as none of them actually have citizenship. Therefore in the view of the New York Times, they are doubly not Americans.

An exercise for the reader (if not the New York Times graphics department) is to improve on this lazy correction and actually publish the experiences of Americans without the myopic, provincial view of what qualifies as the "real" "domestic" threat.