Dilbert Denies Climate Change – I Challenge Dilbert – So It Goes

Dilbert, first published when I was about two years old, always got a chuckle from me as a lad because the pictures were silly, but it later became newly revelatory after I began to live through the tedium of elevator small talk, witnessed firsthand the omnipresence of miscommunication, and stared down the specter of utter misunderstanding between two or more departments that handled more-or-less the same material.  Scott Adams, Dilbert’s creator, has injected doses of sanity into general office culture where little sanity exists.  He is, in addition to Mike Judge, one of the true Bodhisattvas of the corporate world, offering comedic salvation from what is otherwise a paradigm that induces near-constant existential crises for the jaded (me) and the less mentally resolute (also me).

As a young man I even bought a copy of Adam’s God’s Debris, a really wonderful book that introduces the reader to a lot of strange Philosophical ideas with a supremely gentle touch.  I had long been an Adams fan – and still am – but I found out recently that he is a climate change denier, masquerading as a simple skeptic of the science behind climate change.  I’m sure my frustration will be evident throughout.

dilbert

Panels five and six: a fundamental mischaracterization of the scientific process.  Screencap from dilbert.com  

Adam’s himself wrote a blog post  wherein he claims that he sides with a majority of scientists “until they change their collective minds” – but the issues he then raises with the scientific status quo he says are “what it would take to convince skeptics that climate science is a problem that we must fix”.  These, unfortunately, are points that only a climate change denier would put forward as counter arguments to what is an overwhelming and well-supported scientific opinion.

I’ve been told in other mediums that “denier” is a dirty word and it’s wrong, or at least unhelpful, to paint those who do not believe in climate change (as it has been presented) as such.  The issue I have with this, however, is that a “denier” of climate change rarely challenges the science behind the consensus or approaches the science itself with a very fundamental misunderstanding of basic science.  I am not a scientist by trade, but I have studied a wide variety of mathematics and understand the basis for many of the theories of climate change, insofar as the mathematical modeling is concerned.  Plus, one of the most common defenses I see for climate change deniers is that they will demand that anyone commenting on the topic be an expert and, yet, when the expert presents their opinion – that man-made climate change is real – they’ll call them a shill, or a lackey, or sell-out, I assume to Green Industry.

I think I should also say that I expect this piece to be rather ineffective; since climate change denial is literally based (by and large, and I would love to see a cogent argument as to why this is untrue) on a distrust of the scientific community, I doubt that my appeals will reach many.  I think fundamentally, that the approach by Bill Nye et al is hamfisted; the people who they are ostensibly attempting to convince will never, ever believe them.  Instead, perhaps a more helpful consideration is that the United States Military, among others, have been talking about man-made climate change for over a decade and deem it a real national security threat.  Climate Change is absolutely real, and you should care about it if only because it puts the security of the US at risk.

Without Further Ado: A Point-by-point refutation of Adam’s Climate Change Skepticism from the post linked above: 

1. Stop telling me the “models” (plural) are good. If you told me one specific model was good, that might sound convincing. But if climate scientists have multiple models, and they all point in the same general direction, something sounds fishy. If climate science is relatively “settled,” wouldn’t we all use the same models and assumptions?

And why can’t science tell me which one of the different models is the good one, so we can ignore the less-good ones? What’s up with that? If you can’t tell me which model is better than the others, why would I believe anything about them?

What, precisely, sounds fishy about a number of models pointing in the same general direction?  The models overwhelmingly agree on the future state of the climate.  If anything, this is MORE disturbing because it means that regardless of how generous or free-handed we are with the variables involved, we still end up in a place that is severely detrimental to human civilization.  If you had a hundred models, ninety-nine of which agreed it was going to rain tomorrow and the only difference was how much, would  you  not bring your umbrella?

2. Stop telling me the climate models are excellent at hindcasting, meaning they work when you look at history. That is also true of financial models, and we know financial models can NOT predict the future. We also know that investment advisors like to show you their pure-luck past performance to scam you into thinking they can do it in the future. To put it bluntly, climate science is using the most well-known scam method (predicting the past) to gain credibility. That doesn’t mean climate models are scams. It only means scientists picked the least credible way to claim credibility. Were there no options for presenting their case in a credible way?

Just to be clear, hindcasting is a necessary check-off for knowing your models are rational and worthy of testing in the future. But it tells you nothing of their ability to predict the future. If scientists were honest about that point, they would be more credible.

Specialized predictions in Economics and Finance are inherently flawed because they are experiments in mass psychology.  An economic model must assume some level of rationality for consumers, which can never be completely accurate.  In the natural sciences, however, you’ll find Carbon Dioxide doesn’t have feelings and the temperature of the ocean doesn’t care if the Fed lowers interest rates.  The issue is that EVERY science uses the same or similar methodology (differential equations, exponential growth, game theory, Markov chains, probability) but you must look at the SUBJECT MATTER of each experiment: if it involves economics, you immediately have a less reliable model than a similar model in the natural sciences.  Again, go ask a molecule of Carbon Dioxide if the amount of heat it can hold in the atmosphere varies based on housing prices in Cleveland.

3. Tell me what percentage of warming is caused by humans versus natural causes. If humans are 10% of the cause, I am not so worried. If we are 90%, you have my attention. And if you leave out the percentage caused by humans, I have to assume the omission is intentional. And why would you leave out the most important number if you were being straight with people? Sounds fishy.

There might be a good reason why science doesn’t know the percentage of human-made warming and still has a good reason for being alarmed. I just haven’t seen it, and I’ve been looking for it. Why would climate science ignore the only important fact for persuasion?

Today I saw an article saying humans are responsible for MORE than 100% of warming because the earth would otherwise be in a cooling state. No links provided. Credibility = zero.

What source are you going to believe, Scott?  Who is omitting this information?  Is this the article you saw?  If links aren’t provided – on the internet and on a random website – I’d say your refusal to do just a bit of legwork to track down a source tacitly illustrates your true position.

4. Stop attacking some of the messengers for believing that our reality holds evidence of Intelligent Design. Climate science alarmists need to update their thinking to the “simulated universe” idea that makes a convincing case that we are a trillion times more likely to be a simulation than we are likely to be the first creatures who can create one. No God is required in that theory, and it is entirely compatible with accepted science. (Even if it is wrong.)

Fine, but this assumes that people who believe that there is evidence for Intelligent Design would be able to accept that ANY intelligence might be able to create our universe, not just the God of a Messianic faith.  I’m sure scientists would be willing to admit this possibility if ID’ers are.

5. Skeptics produce charts of the earth’s temperature going up and down for ages before humans were industrialized. If you can’t explain-away that chart, I can’t hear anything else you say. I believe the climate alarmists are talking about the rate of increase, not the actual temperatures. But why do I never see their chart overlayed on the skeptics’ chart so we can see the difference? That seems like the obvious thing to do. In fact, climate alarmists should throw out everything but that one chart. 

To which “skeptics’ chart” are you referring?  Which sources are you going to believe? There are many sources for global temperature data.  The temperatures AND the rate of change are at issue, because with a higher rate of change, temperature becomes harder and harder to reverse.     

giss_temperature

From NASA, if you believe in that kinda stuff


6. Stop telling me the arctic ice on one pole is decreasing if you are ignoring the increase on the other pole. Or tell me why the experts observing the ice increase are wrong. When you ignore the claim, it feels fishy.

WHO IS TELLING YOU THIS?  There are myriad sources which would explain this to you and the reasons why, if you bothered to look.

7. When skeptics point out that the Earth has not warmed as predicted, don’t change the subject to sea levels. That sounds fishy. 

Again, which sources are you referring to?  Who is telling you this?  I cannot counter this information if I don’t have it in the first place.

8. Don’t let the skeptics talk last. The typical arc I see online is that Climate Scientists point out that temperatures are rising, then skeptics produce a chart saying the temperatures are always fluctuating, and have for as far as we can measure. If the real argument is about rate of change, stop telling me about record high temperatures as if they are proof of something.

The argument is about both.  Why would a record high not be of concern?  Even if temperatures fluctuate over time, to have a record high still means that fluctuations were sufficient enough to put global temperatures off the charts, and that only happens if there is a steady increase in rate.  Rate and maximums are MATHEMATICALLY related, especially in that you’re going to reach maximums much more quickly at a greater rate.

9. Stop pointing to record warmth in one place when we’re also having record cold in others. How is one relevant and the other is not?

They are both relevant and this has been widely discussed in the literature.  Again, who is suggesting this isn’t important?  I have no idea what source this is coming from, or are you pulling from a comment section somewhere?

10. Don’t tell me how well your models predict the past. Tell me how many climate models have ever been created, since we started doing this sort of thing, and tell me how many have now been discarded because they didn’t predict correctly. If the answer is “All of the old ones failed and we were totally surprised because they were good at hindcasting,” then why would I trust the new ones?

Have you done any research yourself or are you content to look at the comment sections of articles?  This is a copy of one of the first models of global warming.  This is an interview from decades later with [one of the] scientist[s] who created it, who suggests that modeling has been improved over the years, but the fundamentals of the models remain the same.  To put it bluntly, increases in greenhouse gasses increase the greenhouse effect, period.  Manabe’s interview is a perfect example of questioning the science of climate change scientifically, though you will at no point hear him deny that increases in global warming since industrialization is anything other than human-influenced.

12_15_seaLevel_left

Ground measured Sea Level, courtesy of NASA

11. When you claim the oceans have risen dramatically, you need to explain why insurance companies are ignoring this risk and why my local beaches look exactly the same to me. Also, when I Google this question, why are half of the top search results debunking the rise? How can I tell who is right? They all sound credible to me.

This is utter laziness or willful ignorance.  I’m not sure what you googled, but there are many, manymany sources that talk about insurers taking climate change very seriously and adjusting their risk assessments accordingly.  Which sources, specifically, are debunking the rise of sea levels?  There is a difference between local sea level and the Global Sea Level.

12. If you want me to believe warmer temperatures are bad, you need to produce a chart telling me how humankind thrived during various warmer and colder eras. Was warming usually good or usually bad?

You also need to convince me that economic models are accurate. Sure, we might have warming, but you have to run economic models to figure out how that affects things. And economic models are, as you know, usually worthless.

Extremes of temperature are bad, not just warm temperatures – how do you think humanity fared during the Ice Age?  Was it better or worse than in an environment ideal for agriculture?  It’s not the effect on humans that is detrimental (necessarily) but rather the effect temperature may have on our food sources and our other resources, like standing water.  As you said before, if the RATE of temperature change is at issue (it certainly is) then the ability for humans to figure out ways to help their food and resources adapt to rapidly changing temperature is the true problem.

Economic models, despite their shortcomings, are deadly accurate in terms of two concepts: supply and demand.  Anyone – ANYONE – could tell you that the less fresh water their is, the more demand for fresh water there will be.  Likewise, the price will rise.  Supposing that extremes of temperature would affect this – I think most would understand more heat means less water – then what other evidence do you need?  I am at a loss as to how else to communicate this.

 14. If skeptics make you retreat to Pascal’s Wager as your main argument for aggressively responding the climate change, please understand that you lost the debate. The world is full of risks that might happen. We don’t treat all of them as real. And we can’t rank any of these risks to know how to allocate our capital to the best path. Should we put a trillion dollars into climate remediation or use that money for a missile defense system to better protect us from North Korea?

You’ll notice I haven’t retreated from any one of these arguments.  Most I find minimally compelling, but you’ll find that people are assessing risk all of the time, if not at the scale that you’re demanding.  Look at your earlier example of insurance companies: they ARE responding to climate change on scales that typically fly under the radar, but this is nonetheless precisely contrary to what you suggest.  As I mentioned earlier, the US Military is well aware of climate change and is running its own risk assessments: which are surely being considered in juxtaposition to other threats, like a North Korean nuclear strike, for instance.

People ask me why I keep writing on this topic. My interest is the psychology around it, and the persuasion game on both sides. And it seems to me that climate scientists are the Hillary Clinton of scientists. They think facts and reason will persuade the public. Even though science knows that doesn’t generally work.

And yet, you ask for facts and reason?  Do me – do us all – a favor: what would actually convince you that climate change is a real threat?  Why would anyone make this up? Are scientists who are making 40-50k at Universities and Agencies the world over in on the conspiracy?  If so, why are they not rich?   We don’t have too much time left to argue.

 

 

 

 

Podcast Companion – Ep04

In Episode 04 I talk about Rachel Maddow’s poor handling of Trump’s 1040, the persistence of the liberal bubble, Trump voters and the ACA, AG Jeff Sessions, and Sec Def Mattis.

To go along with E04, I’ve included a list of sources that I referenced during recording:

Ep03 of the Podcast – Tammy and the T-Rex

My article about Maddow

Do Trump Voters Feel Buyer’s Remorse Yet

Breitbart’s Take on Ryan’s “Obamacare 2.0”

Another Breitbart Commentary on Obamacare 2.0, aka a Ryan Hitpiece

Rand Paul Criticizes Paul Ryan’s AHCA

DOJ Transcript of AG Sessions’s Remarks in Richmond VA on 15 March 2017

DEA Drug Schedules

ProPublica Article on Mattis’s Comments re: Climate Change

2010 DoD Report on Military Challenges

 

MSNBC Plays the Trump Card: Maddow and David Cay Johnson Give Us NOTHING on Trump’s 1040

UPDATE: I’ve recorded a podcast that expands upon my thoughts on Maddow, in addition to a few other points of interest.  There’s also a podcast companion article in which I list specific sources that I reference in the episode.

David Cay Johnson, a prominent financial journalist and Trump-empire expert, very recently received Donald Trump’s 2005 IRS 1040 form from an anonymous source.  The 1040, for those unaware, is the IRS tax form that lists totals and subtotals – assets, income, and a calculation of tax liability.  The forms indicate that Trump paid $38 million in taxes on $150 million in income.

Rachel Maddow invited David Cay Johnson onto her MSNBC show to discuss the exclusive leak. Actually let me revise: first Maddow plugged Johnson’s book, but THEN they jumped into the leak.  Unfortunately, almost everything important we can learn from the 1040, I’ve already told you.  Maddow, in a quest for ratings, publicized this leak on Twitter with vague language suggesting she had Trump’s 2005 schedules, which would contain very specific details about where the totals on Trump’s 1040 from came from:

About an hour later, she got a bit more specific:

What’s most interesting about the forms is that they are “client copies” of the form, meaning that they were copies for Trump’s reference. All of this suggests Trump leaked the forms himself. But why?

Two reasons. First, if Trump did leak the forms then he is using this benign data to distract from the severe backlash Trumpcare (AHCA) has been getting from all sides or from his own ridiculous Obama wiretapping claims.  Or both.  Actually, probably both.  Secondly, the data is so un-enlightening, Trump can call it “fake news” and fit it nicely into his cleverly spun narrative against the main stream media.

Trump supporters will see this as “liberal” desperation. In fact, the White House preemptively released a statement verifying the authenticity of the returns, but also suggesting that Maddow’s actions were “totally illegal” – they weren’t, by the way. The statement concluded: “The dishonest media can continue to make this a part of their agenda while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans.” If Stephen Miller didn’t pen this statement himself, I’d be surprised.

Trump is a media genius. He baited Maddow using her greed for ratings and she fell for it. All she’s managed to do is further distance Trump supporters from the media and those who approve of her reporting were very likely already convinced that Trump has ties with Russia. What now?  Calls for Trump’s tax returns in the future will be scoffed at – Maddow will be referenced by name. These demands have already been voted down by Congressional Republicans, but now will they even be taken seriously at all?  Trump’s connections with Russia will be downplayed and seen as rabid liberal attacks on conservatism.  Plus, Trump has long been a proponent of killing the Alternative Minimum Tax, which would grant him – and other ultra wealthy individuals like him – more significant tax breaks. You can expect that initiative to gain more supporters now or, at least, you can expect the traction of opponents of the “reform” to diminish.

I am furious and extremely disappointed in Rachel Maddow. In an era where our President is a habitual liar – even about daily minutiae – we CANNOT allow him to be empowered further by playing into his hand.

Donald Trump needs to release his tax returns like every other modern President has done. If there’s nothing to hide, why is he refusing to do so? The “under audit” defense can only last so long. If you are against him releasing his returns – why? Are you against transparency? At the very least, if he’s done nothing wrong, you’ll get the opportunity to gloat about how right you were and I would welcome the revelation that Donald Trump is actually just a very rough around the edges saint.

To those of you opposed to Trump, remember: don’t stand down at town halls, don’t stop calling your representatives,stay focused, and don’t stay quiet.

EDIT: So it begins.  Stop giving them ammo.

EDIT 2: What I was afraid of.  Blind support for the Maddow segment:

What I think a lot of people don’t understand in their bones is that their perspective might not necessarily be the one that matters.  That their take-away might not be the right one.  This person apparently saw some juicy info on Russia/Trump that I apparently missed.  I must have dozed off for an hour or so…

Overall, this is not how Maddow’s segment will be perceived and perception is what really matters.  We are playing fast and loose with facts and logic; convincing people now is all about making them feel the right way, and it’s perilous to not adjust our approach to account for that.  We’re witnessing the strength of populism in the digital age, but populist politics have always operated the same way.

It’s people like Gerry and friends here that are just not getting it and probably never will.  Don’t let yourself be a Gerry.

EDIT 3: I meet yet another Gerry (who has blocked me):

Politico reported on the ties between Rybolovlev and Trump last year.  I am still waiting to hear how anything other than Maddow’s release of the 1040 was at all revelatory.  It’s great that people are learning about Trump’s ties to Russia, but people who were convinced by Maddow last night were already opposed to Trump.  These are not the people I’m concerned about.

We need hard, actionable evidence and Maddow should be ashamed of how she billed the 1040.  We learned nothing new.  Full stop.

xsutdiej0mwmo

EDIT 4: The last one before I lose my mind.  

David Cay Johnson published a report regarding Trump’s 1040.

In summary: Trump bent a lot of tax laws and used tax-structures that existed at the time to pay fewer taxes.  Oh, and there’s nothing in there that specifically details Trump’s connections to Russia:

Capture

bapikfao0iv5k

Quick Thoughts: Vetting and Radicalization

Following Trump’s “Muslim Ban” the issue about the refugee vetting process has reached a fevered pitch.

But few of the arguments (so far) have been constructive.

What we do know is that the vetting process is already very thorough [1], [2], [3] and, statistically, very effective, which is just one reason why so many were so angered by President Trump’s illogical blanket ban that, among many other glaring shortcomings, didn’t include a number of countries with well-established ties to terror.

Fears of admitting Muslim Extremists to the US have been pitted against fears that any type of drastic pivot to a harsher vetting process would only seek to harm America’s image on the world’s stage.

Opponents of current vetting procedures cite a laundry list of terror attacks that have occurred on US soil such as the San Bernardino Attack or the Boston Marathon Bombing (among others) as examples of why we need better vetting for immigrants and refugees to the US. There certainly are improvements to be made to the process, but everyone should be open to discussions that will keep it a fluid and dynamic system.  It must continue to adapt to needs of the US and the world over time by becoming more lax or more restrictive as needed.

In the place of reasonable discussion, however, we’re met with a wild mix of equal parts erroneous conjecture, ignorance of the facts, and utter lack of long-term thinking. I haven’t heard any good arguments about reforming the vetting process, only that it “needs” it, which is quite obviously coming from a place of fear. I’m all for a re-examination of the process so long as: specific deficiencies in our current system are highlighted, solutions to those deficiencies are proposed, and a strong case can be made that these solutions will result in a net-positive impact for the United States. As I see it, there are two major problems facing the United States at present regarding discussions about its policies on terror and immigration:

Problem 1: Conflating the Issues

While it’s entirely true that the US has been the target of both lone-wolf and directed terror attacks on its own soil, people are too quick to single out the vetting process as the culprit.

Most of the perpetrators of US based terror attacks have been young men who are citizens or residents of the US who immigrated with their families, often when they were young.  The vetting process, by definition, does not screen for future radicalization; it is not a “pre-crime” unit, nor should that be expected of it.

Rizwan Farook, one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino attacks, was born and raised in the United States.[4] Of the Tsarnaev brothers who conducted the Boston Marathon Bombings, one was a naturalized US citizen and both were raised in the United States.[5] Omar Mateen, perpetrator of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, was a US citizen born and raised in the US.[6] Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-American, immigrated to the US at a young age and would later be implicated in a plot to conduct suicide bombings in New York City. [7] In all of these cases, these terrorists are survived by (or have left behind) members of their families that have passed US vetting procedures and have assimilated into American society without committing any terrorist acts. Curious.

Based on the facts, it appears to me that the the pressing threat to American security (as it indirectly relates to vetting) is not direct terror or subterfuge from foreign migrants, but instead home-grown terrorism and the radicalization of first and second generation immigrants and refugees with no connections – initially or otherwise – to established terror networks. Some of the other more frightening commonalities between these acts is that these are young, impressionable, and oftentimes disturbed men who may seek out violent ideologies that are in-line with their own thoughts. What is more frightening still are the similarities between young men like these and other non-Muslim, American, mass-murderers. It all comes full circle when we realize that we can’t readily stop, or even predict, when the next young male – Muslim, citizen, or otherwise – will decide to enact violence on a mass scale. The only true variable in these despicable occurrences is which misguided ideology the perpetrator will choose to justify their actions.

Problem 2: No Long Term Solution

If we accept that radicalization is an important issue, then perhaps our vetting process shouldn’t be our primary concern. There are certainly issues involving our screening procedures, but in many cases these failures are not intelligence gathering, but failures of action on the part of domestic counter-terror units. [8], [9] We should also re-evaluate the effectiveness and potential harm of domestic terror sting operations and dragnets conducted by US Intelligence Agencies. [10]

We need to consider the effect of heavy-handed and punitive immigration policies on the radicalization of Muslim individuals both at home and abroad. Is wise for us to communicate a distrust of Muslims in general through legislation and executive power? Should we continue to engage in interventions in the Middle East that cause massive collateral damage and further radicalize local populations? Surely not. Instead the United States needs to consider the proper balance between maintaining its security from foreign threats, properly assimilating migrants and immigrants, and supporting (and not hindering) grass-roots reform in the Islamic world. We’re already engaged in a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat, reactionary policies, and we have the opportunity to work on ending it if we act intelligently. Perhaps in four or maybe eight years we’ll have the chance to get started in earnest.

Nonetheless, foreign terror is a very real threat and cannot be ignored. I think every American knows that it is only a matter of time before we experience another attack orchestrated by a terror network. Our interventions abroad, however, need to be far more measured than they have been in years past. Likewise, a “take-all-comers” policy for immigration where a few countries unprepared for a massive influx of immigrants bear the brunt of a refugee crisis is a recipe for disaster. Europe is a prime example of the folly of a too-broad refugee effort without appropriate supports, even if their humanitarian spirit is admirable. If we are unable to present a compromise of policy that appeals to those who are already wary of immigrants – specifically Muslim immigrants – we risk the further rightward radicalization of our own constituency which, frankly, frightens me more than nearly anything else.


[1]https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/02/01/refugees-are-already-vigorously-vetted-i-know-because-i-vetted-them/

[2]https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/

[3]http://www.npr.org/2015/11/22/456989115/the-u-s-refugee-screening-process-works

[4]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rizwan_Farook_and_Tashfeen_Malik

[5]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Marathon_bombing#Backgrounds

[6]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Orlando_nightclub_shooting#Perpetrator

[7]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Najibullah_Zazi#Early_life

[8]http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-explosions-boston-congress-idUSBREA2P02Q20140326

[9]http://www.nationalreview.com/article/428388/tighten-immigration-procedures-now-jessica-vaughan

[10]https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/21/government-agents-directly-involved-us-terror-plots-report

Muslims Not Welcome Here: Islamic Extremism and A Common Sense Immigration Policy for the US

In what can only be described as a stunningly obtuse and ham-fisted policy move, Donald Trump has effected an Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”  The contents of the EO, by this time, are well known.  Most notably it “bans” immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) – in most cases for 120 days (at first), but in the case of Syria, indefinitely.  As has already been extensively discussed in the media, this ban has had immediate repercussions for legal residents, inbound travelers, those with dual citizenship with a country “detrimental” to the security of the United States, or who have family abroad in these regions.

Conspicuously absent from the list are both Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, countries with well-known ties to Islamic Extremists whose attacks have directly affected the US at home and abroad.  Likewise absent and with known-ties to radical Islam are Pakistan, Turkey, the UAE, and Egypt.  The connection which, again has been reported on extensively, is that Trump holds no major business interests in countries subject to the ban, but does have business ties in some other Muslim majority countries that are not subject to the ban.

What is perhaps most frustrating and repugnant about the policy is how brazenly it serves the financial self-interest of the POTUS.  The Oval Office made no effort to camouflage, conceal, or otherwise deflect attention from this.  With this fact alone, whatever intellectual foundation existed for such a massive immigration restriction evaporates entirely; the stated aims of the EO i.e. to prevent “Terrorist Entry” has effectively left off of the list countries known to harbor anti-US terrorists, including countries that provided the central figures of the 9/11 attacks.

Immigration restrictions alone are not inherently unconstitutional, nor do I find them particularly vexing in essence.  A robust immigration system should be dynamic enough to adjust to the international climate, which includes the ability to adjust immigration numbers as needed.  Indeed, there are even scenarios where blanket immigration restrictions may be warranted, such as in a state of war.  The irony of this situation is that because Trump is seeking to enforce a blanket ban with vacuous reasoning and questionable tenets, he has effectively cultivated a de facto wartime atmosphere.  The further issue, and perhaps the most troubling, is that this atmosphere exists against not any sovereign state, but against the second largest religious following in the world – one that spans over many countries and territories and claims members from an enormous array of ethnicities, creeds, and traditions.  Trump has managed, with a signature, to make official the divide between Islam and the West.  Muslims are no longer welcome here, or so we’ve seemingly told the world.

I, for one, consider such a vain, callous, and shallow policy entirely heretical to what 21st Century America should stand for.  In addition to the new position the administration has taken against the Islamic world, such political Blitzkrieg will serve only to further radicalize Muslims, even moderates who undoubtedly now consider themselves a suspect class in the eyes of US.  I have little doubt that Trump has done for ISIS in a few days what would have otherwise taken years.  In countries where moderate Muslims and peaceful Imams struggle to curb extremism, what will they say to impressionable youth who feel despised by a country they’ve never visited or seen?

And the greatest shame in all of this is that we are now further removed from a reasonable, rational discussion of Radical Islam which is unquestionably a threat to – and in direct opposition of – progressivism, freedom, and democracy.  Again, had Trump’s position been cogent and his tenets at all rational or uninfluenced by self-interest, it would have been intellectually reasonable and politically acceptable to impose immigration restrictions on certain nations with groups overtly hostile to Western Democracies.  It would have been reasonable to examine or to propose to change the vetting system for immigrants and refugees, even though the current vetting system has proved to be very successful.  Instead of this, of course, we’re left with an official, state-sanctioned divide between “them” and us.

Here I’m obliged to say that where I disagree with many on the left is that the US should institute a “take-all-comers” policy, even during a humanitarian crisis, from areas of the world that harbor anti-US Islamic extremists.  The reason for this is multifaceted.  Perhaps the most potent rationale I can provide is one of recent historical significance, namely the influx of immigrants into the EU, and especially Angela Merkel’s disastrous and wildly unpopular policies regarding Syrian refugees.  In Europe as a whole, immigration from Muslim-majority countries has been handled without proper infrastructure in place to help smooth the assimilation of refugees.  The chaos that ensued polarized immigrant communities and EU citizens alike, most often directly against one another.  As a result, far-right parties and populists have gained massive followings and xenophobia is rampant.

In the US, our own far-right parties have emerged as a direct result of the US’s failure to both rationally address and readily acknowledge the threat of radical Islam or consider the future of the US relations to the Islamic World.  Much of the reason why the government has failed to do this, in my estimation, is that a taboo exists against discussing Islamic Terrorism for fear of riding a slippery slope into erroneous generalizations.  Ironically, of course, the failure – largely of well-meaning liberals – to be open to having rational discussions about issues in the Islamic World, has further polarized right-leaning US constituents and has led to Trump’s state-sanctioned generalizations.  We need to discuss, understand, and compromise on issues that affect both the US and Muslim-majority countries.  We need to acknowledge and understand that Islamic terrorism is an extremely serious issue and disproportionately affects other peaceful Muslims.  We need clear directives that dictate when and to what extent to intervene in Muslim-majority countries while avoiding the oafish state-building experiments that, historically, have served only to radicalize formerly peaceable Muslims.  The onus is on us to have the mental strength to have these difficult discussions and to understand that Islamic Governments operate within a paradigm that is entirely different from the (typically) secular governments of the West.

This, in short, is why I am not inherently opposed to immigration restriction.  Influxes of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, especially under policies like Hillary Clinton suggested, could be detrimental to the overall progressiveness of the US constituency.  By this I mean that I would not be as concerned about the actual empirical effect of an influx of Muslim immigrants, but rather what the pre-perception of the empirical result would be.  I realize as though this sounds as though I’m suggesting giving in to domestic xenophobia, but if we’re to ever reclaim a less fractious constituency, I see pragmatism as the only solution.  Just as we – or perhaps all of us except the Trump administration – would like to avoid the further radicalization of Muslims, it’s equally important to avoid far-right radicalization at home or we can expect support for fear-based politics to widen considerably.

Our current vetting process, as I mentioned, has proven to be very effective.  It is critical, however, to take a lesson from Europe and the growth of Radical Islam within the borders of the EU.  We should also acknowledge the overwhelming difficulty Muslims have had adapting in EU secular societies without appropriate coordination and support and the subsequent backlash from non-Muslim citizens.  Where Europe is uniquely deficient, however, is in the effectiveness of its intelligence agencies in coordinating and sharing information, as well as lax border restrictions.  Those deficiencies may not be present to the same extent in the US, but in such a connected and modern world those same deficiencies are themselves a threat to the United States.  We’ve got to weigh our choices.  Either we approach the issue of Islamic Extremism openly and objectively, or we continue to ignore the issue.  The latter course only leads to disaster.  Any reasonable person will admit that a terrorist attack on US soil is bound to happen again as a matter of course which, if it occurs in the current political climate, will only further radicalize US constituents.  Undoubtedly the political backlash after a successfully executed attack would spawn even more heavy handed domestic policies against Muslims, further radicalizing populations at home and abroad.  There are no perfect answers to these issues, but I believe there are optimal ones that can successfully minimize the tit-for-tat radicalization that seems all but inevitable.

I imagine also there must be a rather gleeful reaction from Radical Islamists the world over.  Donald Trump has done them a tremendous service in his first week as the POTUS and I’m extremely concerned about the future actions of a man who has proven, time and again, to be a thin-skinned charlatan.  What’s worse is that Steve Bannon, undoubtedly the mastermind behind the executive order, has done well to consolidate his own position within the administration.  As the alt-right decried the feelings of liberal “snowflakes” at the same time they somehow managed to ignore the fact that their tough-talking candidate is the epitome of  the thing which they most despise and is, in addition, wildly unbalanced and devoid of even a modicum of common sense.

And yet, I am hopeful.  Rebellion seems widespread at all levels of government.  Protests abound and people are politically energized.  I count our blessings that we have Trump instead of an even more terrible individual.  Trump isn’t an artful liar in that he lies often and freely, which will hurt him in the end.  His claims and promises are so grandiose that he will never be able to deliver on many of them, which will ultimately alienate many of his former supporters.  In the end, I see Trump as a great if unintentional unifier of the country.  The worst is surely yet to come, but we’re finally awake.

EDIT: Some required reading.  One of the main responses to any criticism of Trump’s EO have been to compare it with prior immigration EOs from Obama and even Jimmy Carter.  This FP article offers a great point by point refutation of this position.  It requires a login to read, but is free and I encourage everyone to learn and know these counter arguments well.  Furthermore, the fact that Trump seemingly did not consult with ANY relevant agencies regarding this EO is something that should trouble you, if it does not already.  An administration this overtly isolated from reality is incredibly, impossibly dangerous.