Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trump is more corrosive than Sharia law

By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist
An Uninformed Engineer's Look at the Immigration Pause 

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality.  A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions.  Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”  C. S. Lewis
Tolerance is about moral consciousness in conflict.  The writing of St. Thomas Aquinas called conscience “synderesis”.  It is the innate principle in everyone which directs them toward good and away from evil.  Open-mindedness threatens the soul with eternal damnation.  It takes courage to be hospitable to those whom we disagree with, but tolerance is more than personal.  Government can take it away.
The Pilgrims banished and executed those who challenged their religious beliefs.  The early American settlers were not a happy family.  Puritans, Anglicans, Quakers, Baptists, Jews, and Catholics did not get along.  Today we must live together.  Everyone has the right to be wrong. 
Fake Empathy
Should we ask immigrants:  How do you love us?  What is God’s name?  Who was Muhammad?  What is jihad?  Are women second class citizens?  What makes you compatible with modernization, capitalism, and democracy?
The wizard of fake empathy’s frivolous posturing, that we must question immigrants about “respect” for our laws demeans them.  It implies that those who come to America to escape war are criminals.  Law abiding Muslim citizens are feared, because they might endorse some of the values consistent with Sharia law.  But Christians do not endorse every aspect of our culture.
There is no way that Sharia law can be as corrosive to our legal system as a President who argues that a Hispanic judge could not rule in his legal case because of his Mexican heritage.  We wonder how the abrupt firing of a prominent New York attorney, who prosecuted hedge fund fraud, insider trading, bribery, and bipartisan political corruption to the tune of nearly four billion dollars in fines and settlements is consistent with “draining the swamp”. 
Donald Trump’s dystopian reality and ministry of propaganda will create a government department to publicize immigrant crimes.  It’s like the NRA’s Armed Citizen disinformation.  It inflates fear and increases bigotry by showing only the bad side of immigration.  
There will always be a few fanatics.  Disturbed Christians have attacked mosques.  They seem to think that Jesus would have built a wall and turned away refugees.  Home grown Muslim terrorists have committed acts of violence.  What is the price we pay for focusing only on the few hateful Muslims?  Shouldn’t we be more concerned with making friends than fearing enemies?
Perhaps there is a law of nature, as in thermodynamic physics, that describes disorder and increasing diversity.  We can look at vetting immigrants in a more scientific way.
It’s Mathematical
Math gives us a visual landscape and curves that help seeing even without numbers.  It is not necessary to list equations.  The contour of “bad hombres” can be described with words.
Trump has said that we must be certain that there are no terrorists.  What is the nature of that certainty?  Is it intuitional and emotional, or something that can be counted, like the expected outcome that makes gambling casinos the real winners?  Is it concrete and estimated by statistical probability? 
Fake Numbers
The Cato Institute said that there is one terrorist per 3.64 billion people.  That contradicts Trump’s irrational assertion that his executive order had to be a surprise because of the thousands of bad guys waiting at the border who would have scurried in had they seen it coming.   Since 9/11/2001 data records that seventy-two people have been convicted for serious crimes related to terrorism, but they did not actually commit any act of violence.  The Southern Poverty Law Center puts this in perspective when they explain that the number of anti-Muslim “hate groups” grew from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year.
Republicans say refugees have been admitted with less than sixty seconds of investigation.  In contradiction, it is written that the process typically takes more than a year, requiring a half-dozen interviews and review by multiple agencies.
Vetting Immigrants
Trump’s child-like superficiality was on display when he looked into the TV camera, thinking only of good guys and bad guys, and ordered protestors to “stop that”.  If it were that simple the “silent majority” and “moral majority” would have given us nirvana long ago.  Instead, we are stuck in a culture of violence, feeling that high capacity weapons of war are needed everywhere so the good guys can shoot the bad guys.
We could dispense with vetting by charging admission.  That would be in step with the latest election, testifying to the belief that wealth is more than enough.  But people are more than that.  We don’t have the details concerning the efficacy of lie detectors, brain scans, and waterboarding, but quality control engineering applies to every situation where there are a few defects within a larger population.
We cannot classify terrorism without an unambiguous definition of the separate boxes we will put its manifestations into.  If we graph the relative frequencies of characteristics falling into these boxes, we get a frequency distribution, like the bell curve that our teachers used to grade us by.  A more narrow or peaked bell indicates that our prediction is more stable.
There are two things involved here, the individual terrorist and the population of all immigrants.  The statistic is an attribute of the entire population, not the individual.  For it to hold relatively constant, there must be a social cause, more than just “bad hombres”.
Testing Terrorists
We want to design vetting to detect terrorists while still allowing immigration.  To help with discerning bad guys, we would like our process to be symmetrical.  In other words, a terrorist should look the same from any other county.  When immigrants from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq are treated differently, symmetry fails and confusion grows.
Suppose we had a test that could detect a future terrorist with 90 percent confidence.  You would think that this would be a good screen against terrorists.  Suppose that out of every group of immigrants one in a thousand will commit an act of terrorism.  When we screen them, our test will incorrectly identify ten percent, or one hundred of them, as terrorists, but only one will actually be a terrorist.  Our leaders do not seem to be taking this into consideration when they say that they will be certain.  Because they use fear to motivate the public, they will claim that all ten were terrorists, making the reported number ten times higher than what it actually is. 
If there are no acts of terrorism, the vetting process will be triumphantly claimed to work.  If there are terrorist acts, law and order will require taking civil liberties away.  It is what every fascist dictator wants.  A quandary remains.  White nationalism needs terrorists, but a safe America cannot tolerate them. 
The discrimination of an imperfect test must be much stronger than what it is trying to screen against.  If only 0.01 percent of immigrants are terrorists, then we need a vetting procedure that is 99.99 percent accurate to avoid false positives.  When it concerns people, that kind of confidence is difficult.
Suppose there were no terrorists at all in the entire population.  No one would be available to slip through screening regardless of what it was. The test could be claimed to eliminate terrorism even though it did nothing at all.
If the Trump administration has 72 captured terrorists, they should submit them to their extreme vetting to see if it can detect them.  It’s human nature to want to proclaim victory, so it is unlikely that they would take this obvious step.  
Coffee Beans and Terrorists
Suppose that it is all good or bad.  Then, it is like the problem caused by rats that frolicked among the coffee beans.  They left a tiny proportion of droppings that ended up in only a few bags.  The only way to have certainty that there are no rat feces in coffee is to inspect all of it, but that would be a lot of work and very expensive.  So, they opened only a few bags and decided what to do with the entire shipment based on that.  Likewise, we can’t thoroughly inspect all immigrants.  We have to pick just a few.
You can’t know everything about anything without looking at all of it.  Anything less is uncertain and it has two errors.  One is that we might decide to screen the entire lot of coffee even though the lot met acceptable standards.  The other is that we might ship the lot of coffee with no further action, even though it contains an unacceptable quantity of rat droppings.  The first case leads to unnecessary effort.  In the second case, a few terrorists slip through.
Our criterion depends on whether we are most concerned with rejecting good coffee or accepting bad coffee.  These possibilities are mathematically graphed, at opposite ends of a probability curve, not equal, and can be selected to reduce one or the other of these errors.  Do we want to turn away those who would make America great, or do we want to risk letting a failure through?  That is the decision we must make.
What we are saying here, is that nothing is perfect.  Our coffee contains some small amount of things we would rather not know about.  Our hearts contain some thoughts that we won’t admit.
Understanding Ourselves
Assume a woman had two children.  If we ask whether either of them was a girl, and are told yes, what is the probability that her other child is also a girl?  We might think that the birth event depends on biology and is one in two or fifty percent, but now it also depends on what we have learned.  A “probability space” shows this.
Consider that a map of the states has to show all of them to be complete.  Otherwise, our trip might take us to a surprise!  Now let’s map our problem, considering the birth of both children while looking for a girl.
The children could be:  boy-boy, girl-boy, boy-girl, and girl-girl.  But we have learned that at least one of the children is a girl, thus eliminating the boy-boy possibility.  So, the actual probability is 1/3 because of what we have learned.
Learning about the probability of terrorism requires knowing all the possibilities, but human beings cannot be completely known.  Our intuition can be misleading.
Think Mathematically
It seems unlikely that math could help us understand terrorism until you consider that highly complex technical problems always have human consequences.  Math helps to reduce our blind spot.