Sweden, Refugees and that Trump thing

Even before the Trump administration, America has taken pitifully few refugees and asylum seekers from the crisis it started in the post 9/11 era. This is especially true when you look at it’s geographical size, and financial strength.

At 20x the size of Sweden, and over 18x the GDP, America has taken just 10% of the refugees Sweden.

By now anyone paying attention will have heard about the debacle of Trumps speech where he attempted to justify his Executive Order on Immigration by pointing to “what happened in Sweden last night”. If you have not, you can read the whole thing here.

Lets do what we’ve been asked, and not take President Trump literally, and assume he was talking about a trend in crime caused by refugees. Trump himself said he was responding to a report on Fox News, forget about the voracity for getting information from Fox News if you are the US President. (See *1 for additional opinion).

I’ve been to Sweden a number of times, mostly to Stockholm, and Gotenburg but also had a fabulous speaking engagement in Malmo. It’s an amazing place. It’s worth though putting the refugee issue in some context though, irrespective of what may or may not have happened.

Sweden

Geography:
Size: 173,860 Square Miles, slightly larger than California. 65% of which is forest and approximately 30% lies north of the article circle. Which means the main inhabited part of Sweden is about the size of the US State of Georgia.
Population:
Population: 10,019,400 with approximately 5-million people employed, of which almost 70% are in Unions. Again, that makes it similar to the US State of Georgia in terms of population.
Economy:
6th most competitive economy in the world;
Tax:
One of the highest tax rates;
Welfare:
One of the most developed welfare states;
Unemployment:
Stands around 7.5% in January 2017;
Healthcare:
Medical coverage is universal and at only nominal fees; Infant mortality rate is half that of the USA;
Child Welfare:
Guaranteed kindergarten places for ALL 1-5 year olds; All school children receive free school lunch, many also get breakfast.

Immigration, Refugees and crime

Sweden provides a very attractive destination for refugees. And so they have come, in huge numbers. According to the CIA World Fact book,

Refugees (country of origin): 52,707 (Syria); 23,886 (Iraq); 21,501 (Somalia); 20,203 (Eritrea); 13,064 (Afghanistan) (2015)
Stateless people: 31,062 (2015); note – the majority are from the Middle East and Somalia

 

There have certainly been crimes by the refugees, and there have been a number of claims/articles on the scope and impact of crime, especially this, now infamous one.  The 2016 Swedish Crime Survey showed a small uptick in crime in 2015, with 13.3% of nearly 12,000 respondents reporting they had been exposed to one or more offenses, including assault, threats, sexual offenses, robbery, fraud, or harassment. But although the number is up from 11.3% in 2014, the survey says the numbers are around the same level as they were in 2005, well before Sweden’s refugee influx began.(*2)

There is no doubt that the number of refugees and asylum seekers will be having an impact in Sweden. Assimilation is hard in any new country, and Sweden is about as different from the middle east or North Africa as it gets. There is of course high unemployment among these immigrants, the Economist says three times higher than native born Swedes. Still, as a country Sweden has done a massive amount, and accept had a mass refugee intake.

AMERICA, FEAR UNCERTAINTY and doubt

By comparison, America, with a geographical size some of 20x that of Sweden even deducting the area accounted for by lakes and rivers, and with a GDP that is over 30x that of Sweden, has taken just 10% of the refugees.

While the Syrian crisis isn’t a direct result of the Bush Administration lead invasion and overthrow of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the humanitarian crisis that followed; there is a link to the Arab Spring that followed the influx of migrants all across north Africa. More than 11-million people in Syria have lost their homes, and more than 250,000 have been killed.

Yet, America, through it’s already extensive and tough vetting(apparently not extreme enough for President Trump), has taken the following refugees.

Refugees (country of origin): 16,370 (Democratic Republic of the Congo); the US admitted 84,995 refugees during FY2016 including: 12,587 (Syria); 12,347 (Burma); 9,880 (Iraq); 9,020 (Somalia); 5,817 (Bhutan); 3,750 (Iran)
Despite what President Trump claims, there is no empirical evidence that immigration increases crime in the United States. In fact, a majority of studies in the U.S. have found lower crime rates among immigrants than among non-immigrants.

Even if you believe the reports from the right wing, and nationalists about crime, that’s no reason to further stop immigration by desperate people, who’ve mostly lost everything, including members of their families. America has it’s own problems, but they are nothing like those of the refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we can and must do more and at least as much as Sweden.

 

(*1) He almost certainly got this bee in his bonnet from Sebastian Gorka who at one time was a regular writer for the Gatestone Institute who a year ago, published the infamous Sweden: Rape Capital of the West. Even the Gatestone Institute has separated itself from the author.

What’s the deal with guns?

Again, skirting around the election, whenever the topic of guns in America comes up, usually after yet-another-mass-shooting, I simply don’t understand. I have no context.

I recently had the chance to hear Guardian journalist Gary Younge discuss his new book “Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives” (via @amazon), with BBC Radio London, broadcaster and journalist, Robert Elms.

So much rang true. It was great hearing two people discuss guns and the bizarre attitudes towards them in the USA. Among the qoutes, and the serious discussions about 10 kids being killed by guns, the best summary of their exchange was this in the opening seconds.

YOUNGE: I was there for 12-years as a correspondant, and there were two things I never got. I never got healthcare, why would you not want that? And I never got guns…
ELMS: Why would you want that?

Gary Younge on twitter

Robert Elms on Twitter

Commiserations are due

My namesake, TOM, didn’t win the Republican primary for South Carolina district 42. As always, you get what you vote for, and the voting numbers were pretty low.

The victor, Mann’s total vote district-wide was 1,245 while Cathcart’s was 770.

 

Mark Cathcart for SC House 42

If you arrived here looking for the website of Mark Cathcart, running for South Carolina House of Representatives, district 42, you’ve arrived in the right place.

Before you take the link over to the actual website of my namesake, full of the usual rhetoric, unsubstantiated claims, and factless assertions, have a read of this.

I emailed the other Mark, hence forward referred to as TOM(The Other Mark) and asked him for his position and action on one, relatively simple topic, Civil Forfiture.

For a candidate for State office, would he work to eliminate or seriously improve civil forfeiture in South Carolina? Reading his website, you’d think this should be a cornerstone of his campaign.

In December 2015, the Institute for Injustice gave South Carolina a D- (one of the worst) for the protection of property owners. The Police only need probably cause to seize property,Law enforcement agencies are not required to track or report their forfeitures, they keep 95% of forfeiture proceeds, with 75% going to police agencies, and 20% to prosecutors. Let’s remember, guilt not required, they can take and keep your stuff irrespective.

You’d think that someone who was campaigning on all these “issues” would be right on that, wouldn’t you?

  1. Over burdening government legislation
  2. Taxes, regulations and overextending laws are stifling our business community
  3. Unreasonable search and seizure, private property rights

Instead of being just-another-republican who preaches the same old rhetoric, ask TOM what he is going to do about South Carolina’s unfair, unjust civil forfeiture? If he isn’t going to do anything about that, he’s just looking to join the gravy train of politicians who while away their time, collect their salaries, and the daily allowance but don’t do much of anything but complain about Government overreach…

ps. If you are going to head over to his website anyway, ask him precisely where and how God gave Constitutional rights? As we all know, the constitution he so rightly swears to uphold, was in fact written and agreed by Men. The closest God came to giving constitutional rights were the 10 Commandments, by which TOM’s proclamation falls foul of the 4th commandment, taking God’s name in vain, to make something seem true, this obviously isn’t.

Sanctions work – North Carolina

There isn’t as far as I know, a formal method of US States, or the US Federal Government putting official sanctions on a state, unlike say a country like Iraq, Iran, North Korea or South Africa.

The decades long disinvestment sanctions, against South Africa, are possibly the most interesting and best parallel for North Carolina. Since passing house bill 1532, North Carolina has faced an increasing push by companies, other states, and cities. This is how it should be.

However, it is not sufficient to depend on commercial companies and a some major liberal forward thinking cities to undo this legislation. What happened with South Africa was that it took years to see the collapse of the apartheid regime and in the end it was people pressure that forced large companies to withdraw, rather than simply laws and sanctions.

PayPal are among the first companies to withdraw from North Carolina, but there need to be many more. Companies and institutions won’t do this though unless they are pressured to do so. WE as individuals have a responsibility to boycott. Don’t use companies that tolerate this bs and continue to do business with the state. Don’t go on vacation there, don’t go to college there, advocate that relatives and friends in the state do the same, as best they can.

_48470148_iran2207_sanct_poster_gSure, it will punish people who had nothing to do with the legislation if jobs are lost, offices are closed etc. People will learn to exercise their vote carefully…

Sanctions alone do NOT work, only in conjunction with actual action will they deliver results.

Way to go Texas

I’ve been quiet recently for no other reason than I’m mid-move from Austin Texas to Louisville Colorado. I don’t think Texas will miss me, or care if I’m gone, but I can’t help but be glad to turn my back on the what must be some of the most vindictive, small minded, and regressive politicians I’ve ever come across.

11380987_867608403331615_1505800615_n[1]It kind of doesn’t matter where you stand on the abortion issue, I’m pro-choice. However, when you look at the time, effort, money and all the laws, regulations that Texas has pursued in their attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood, it is nothing less than a scandal. Worse though are the indirect consequences, the way womens health has just become an acceptable casualty in the battle, little more than mere shrapnel.

While the Texas politico’s have gone after Planned Parenthood, what they’ve actually achieved is the large scale closing of family planning clinics around the state. Of the 82 clinics that have closed, only a third were Planned Parenthood. Those clinics didn’t perform abortions, they were not there just to encourage women to have sex outside of marriage, they provided obstetrical care, gynecological care, and Pap smears.

For those that remain open, there are often massive distances to travel, and long waits, less than a quarter of those that should be seen, are being seen for subsidized preventive health care treatment. That would barely meet the World Health Organization requirements for a third-world country. Welcome to Texas.

Wade Goodwyn has a good report on NPR on the state of affairs in Texas, from George W. Bush childhood home of Midland, far west Texas. The most depressing thing Goodwyn says in his report is:

Texas is becoming the model for other conservative states that would like to defund all family planning clinics associated with abortion providers.

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/464728393/464744500

69!

It’s David Bowies 69th Birthday today, Happy Birthday David.

It’s also 44-years since a 1972, a wet evening photo-shoot in Heddon Street in London gave us one of the more iconic album covers ever; and finally, it’s the release date for Bowies 28th studio album, Blackstar.

He was hugely influential on me in my early teens. I saw him live a few times, including during the first Spiders from Mars Tour in 1972 at his second gig that year in High Wycombe. I also saw Bowie at the Milton Keynes bowl in 1990 as the UK Leg of the Sound+Vision Tour, which famously was the last outing of his back catalog. The concert was overshadowed though by a car crash on our way home, when another driver ran a red-light and very nearly killed both me and my wife Wendy.

Asides from trying to copy his style in the early 1970’s, I used used many lines and couplets from David Bowie lyrics in my English language course work. Sadly I don’t have any of that now but can recall getting A’s for some of the submissions. Mr (Paul) Coffman must have known, but I assume since I could actually explain the structure that was good enough.

YoungerTowards the end of 1974, the end of Ziggy Stardusts 5-Years, I started working on Wembley Market, selling pub mirrors and 7-inch singles on two stalls(Proprietor: Tony Clifford),  as Bowie switched to a more soulful music direction, so did I.

Robert Elms on BBC Radio London featured Bowie today in his “fourfer” weekly segment, where listeners call-up and request their favorite four tracks. You can hear the whole program here, the fourfer starts at 1:05:00.

The foufer featured only 1-track I would have chosen, but it did make me think what my personal fourfer would be. Enjoy.

“And it was Stalking time
for the Moonboys, the Bewley Brothers”


And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor
And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there
Your face, your race, the way that you talk
I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk