If Evidence Mattered…

Despite the fact that he has no legal authority to do so, Governor Pence has doubled down on his rejection of Syrian refugees. He continues to insist that he is just concerned for the safety of Indiana residents.

Indiana’s Governor lives in a wholly fact-free zone, of course. Refugees are highly unlikely to pose a threat to Hoosiers. (Unrestricted access to guns, however, which he enthusiastically supports, represents a huge and demonstrable threat…).

Not only have refugees proven to be virtually all law-abiding, but the danger posed even by genuine, avowed jihadists is actually quite low. Per The New York Times:

Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

Other data sets, using different definitions of political violence, tell comparable stories….

Meanwhile, terrorism of all forms has accounted for a tiny proportion of violence in America. There have been more than 215,000 murders in the United States since 9/11. For every person killed by Muslim extremists, there have been 4,300 homicides from other threats.

A colleague with whom I was discussing this data shared an interesting article from Slate about the venues supplying our home-grown terrorists. The article’s sub-head advised “Forget Syria. The most dangerous religious extremists are migrants from North and South Carolina.”

Today, Republican presidential candidates are climbing over one another in a race to block the entry of Syrian refugees. They’re doing this even though, among the nearly 800,000 refugees we’ve accepted since 9/11, not one has been convicted of—or has even been arrested for—plotting a terror attack in this country. (A few have been arrested for links to terrorism elsewhere.) Why do refugees have such a clean record? Because they have to go through an elaborate process: screening by U.N. evaluators, “biometric and biographic checks,” consultations with U.S. counterterrorism agencies, and an in-person interview with the Department of Homeland Security. On average, the process takes about a year and a half—or, in the case of Syrian refugees, about two years.

Terrorists from North Carolina encounter no such scrutiny. They just climb into their cars, cross the border, and proceed to Georgia, Kansas, or Colorado. They’re protected by Article IV of the Constitution, which, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, guarantees citizens “the right of free ingress into other States.” That’s why, among the 27 fatal terror attacks inflicted in this country since 9/11, 20 were committed by domestic right-wing extremists. (The other seven attacks were committed by domestic jihadists, not by foreign terrorist organizations.) Of the 77 people killed in these 27 incidents, two-thirds died at the hands of anti-abortion fanatics, “Christian Identity” zealots, white anti-Semites, or other right-wing militants.

The writer concluded by wondering “why, as we close our doors to refugees who have done us no harm, we pay so little attention to our enemies within.”

Let’s be candid, even if the Governor isn’t: it’s because we fear those who don’t look like “us.”


  1. When your ideology has led you into a blind corner, when you have no real solutions to the problems facing the people, when your lies and distortions are laid bare for all to see, you reach deep into your bag of tricks and pull out that all time favorite of failed leaders everywhere: FEAR.

  2. Apparently it makes a great deal of difference if your death was at the hands of a Muslim instead of a Christian. I haven’t figured out why that is, but it would seem to be the belief…..

  3. Evidence, in this case, is not considered “evidence” because it does not fit into the little niche the Republicans set aside regarding Syrian refugees. Some of those were scheduled to come here long before the recent exodus throughout Europe and the Middle East. The out-of-control, legally sanctioned gun craze in this country is killing us off from within, an internal/personal war based on the individual’s ideology rather than law or logic…or refugee status.

    This government allows the man/woman-on-the-street to purchase any and all weaponry of all levels and unlimited ammunition. But here is a real poser; in February 1992, President George H.W. Bush signed into full effect the Department of Defense Directive 5210.56, declaring military bases virtually “gun free zones” “Only DoD personnel regularly engaged in law enforcement or security duties shall be armed.” Why is our military limited access to carry their weapon, provided to them by the military, but all citizens are free to arm themselves…and their friends with no limitation? DoD Directive 5210.56 aided in the number of lives lost at Fort Hood, Texas, and the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard. No refugees in either location and how long would it take military personnel on base to become armed if we are attacked on home ground?

    The pockets of home-grown terrorists are unorganized and widespread; they have personal reasons for these attacks and cannot possibly all be identified and tracked by officials. The wife of one of the San Bernadino victims stated in interviews that her husband was very outspoken regarding his anti-Muslim views, she feared he could be the target of that attack. Her interview hasn’t been shown recently – not that I have seen.

    The Syrian refugees aren’t even here yet but they are the target of Pence and other governors finger-pointing for the American based terrorist attacks.

  4. When the FBI director says it is impossible to properly vet refugees from Syria, I believe him. Why don’t you? If you are feeling ambitious, would you mind explaining why the only two options for refugees are being them here or let them die? Sounds like POTUS’ continued posture of my way or the highway.

  5. It seems that the definition of “vet” is in question. Let’s look at the process, if it needs to be changed or upgraded do so. But to whip up the fear rhetoric and keep everyone in a constant state of anxiety serves no purpose.

  6. Ken,

    After reading your response I am curious. Did you read Sheila’s post? If so, are you concerned about properly vetting migrants from North or South Carolina? Are you concerned about people who amass thousands of rounds of ammunition? In spite of the recent violence in California, I am more concerned with radical ammo sexuals than Syrian refugees. And I am even more concerned with the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ rhetoric coming from the likes of Trump and Carson. In California a couple of thugs killed 14 people. Trump, Carson and Pence attack our basic values. I am glad to live in MN where Gov. Dayton welcomes refugees.

  7. Sounds like a cruise missile into Fox News would stop or slow the creation of home grown terrorists. Another for Rush maybe?

  8. Ken; the reason the FBI Director made the statement regarding being impossible to properly vet Syrian refugees was because the question posed only referred to Syrian refugees. It is impossible to properly vet any and all refugees – we need to be concerned with immigrants who are here illegally and the Americans known to have connections to terrorist organizations or are known to make terrorist threats. FBI and CIA knew about the Boston Marathon bomber’s connection to terrorists long before the bombing – they did nothing. The FBI aren’t miracle workers – there are many Americans that would not pass being vetted by the FBI. They should begin by vetting the current list of Republican presidential nomination candidates.

  9. JoAnne,

    “The wife of one of the San Bernadino victims stated in interviews that her husband was very outspoken regarding his anti-Muslim views, she feared he could be the target of that attack. Her interview hasn’t been shown recently-not that I have seen.”

    I saw the same interview on TV. The victim’s wife in the interview was wearing a Jewish star hanging from her necklace and the interview also included a picture of the victim wearing a Jewish prayer shawl.

    I doubt if you’ll see that interview again. It’ll mix us all up. Who are we supposed to hate? The Zionist Jews or the Syrians. So, “let’s stay on the Syrians for now.”

    It might help a little bit, if we looked at our own record in the Middle East. It’s abysmal at best. I wouldn’t be surprised to see in the future, if we don’t open our eyes, both of the above antagonists joined together against us here in the U.S..

    Back in the late 70’s and 80’s , I was the attorney who handled most of the discrimination cases involving Muslims and other immigrants from the Middle East in the North Texas area. A close friend’s brother was a member of King Husein’s cabinet in Jordan. Jordanians, at least in Dallas, were the leaders of the Middle Eastern community.

    One big problem came from the fact that the Texas bigots couldn’t tell the difference between a Palestinian and a Jew. In more than one instance, Palestinian’s were the victims of anti-Semitic discrimination. Supposedly, they looked Jewish: whatever that means.

    I’m sure the above phenomenon is one of the reasons we’ve had relative peace in the U.S. between the warring factions in the Middle East. Both sides could at least understand what it feels like to be called: “a dirty Jew.”

    It looks like all that could change.

  10. I’m new to this site, just found you, and find myself agreeing with Ms. Kennedy more and more. I couldn’t not respond to this post ~ When are we/humans going to admit/recognize that everything that is different frightens us, makes us uneasy/uncomfortable/afraid to some degree.

    If you don’t teach a child to understand/respect differences ~ they’ll probably grow up to fear, then react; otherwise we’d still all be eating Pablum. The first time you feed a baby green peas ~ they either eat them or spit them out. The first time you try to teach a toddler to share ~ they either hand the dolly over or clasp it tighter to their chest. In grade school you start learning about playing on a team or bullying those who don’t make the team. In high school, you begin to realize there are clubs for everyone but not for you. In college, your mind is blown away by all the different people around you; hopefully you make the right choices ~ eating it up not spitting it out.

    It’s that Rogers and Hammerstein song from South Pacific ~

    You’ve got to be taught
    To hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught
    From year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!

  11. Words Matter and the right wing words harm our society.

    From Planned Parenthood to now Syria, they send the message of hate.

    Guess what people, words matter; as the saying song goes “sticks and stones may break my bones”, but words matter and in this age, launch homegrown terrorists (angry white people who’ve killed school children, black church worshiping, moving attending teens and adults, police officers and on and on and on) people to kill, using bullets, not sticks nor stones.

  12. Very disheartening to view the right wing responses to what
    was a very positive presidential address last evening. Our
    (and I repeat “OUR”) president has a logical solution to
    address the terrorist threat to the United States. Thank you,
    also, Mr. President for pointing out the willingness of Congress
    to partake in this endeavor. If other nations can come together
    as a coalition to combat the problem, why, cannot the politicians
    in Washington also be a team player ?

  13. The point is you can’t “vet” your next door neighbor let alone some subset of a Billion plus. You can’t write off either the value of the symbology of taking in the poor, and defenseless. You can’t do without them in understanding the language, custom, perceptions, dreams, and common humanity either.

    As every CIA director and many agree with, recently note, “you can’t kill your way to victory here.”

    The illusion of security from 10,000 refugees who’ve been through a wringer while easy acceptance of homegrown reactionaries out of inhibitory mental and emotional restraint structures and off their meds strikes me as such incongruence as to border idiocy.

  14. There are those among us who profit greatly from drumming up fear and hatred, such as racists, neocons, Cheney war profiteers, big “defense” contractors, Netanyahu land grabbers and the like, all covered with the flag, exhortations from Fox News, and such brilliant radio and TV newscasters as Limbaugh, Beck and O’Reilly. These are the same people who (with their influence over the unwary and fearful and their implied threats to take out any politician who varies one whit from NRA orthodoxy) want to make it possible to put guns in the hands of terrorists and domestic fruitcakes and who as a result are making a shooting gallery out of America. As I blogged recently, 88 people on average are killed every day to guns in America. That means that in two days we have more people killed here than were killed in Paris, a (we hope) one-day experience. I asked why that wasn’t headlines in our newspapers every day, as was the Parisian tragedy for a few days after it occurred. If a jet plane crashed every day and killed 88 people, would that get our attention if Rush told us to ignore it? Has propaganda finally trumped reason?
    When are we going to get serious about intervening in this massive and continuing slaughter of Americans, when it reaches 100 a day? What are we thinking? Or are we?

  15. And it’s interesting that the archbishop is not on all the media outlets, loudly decrying how the mean old government is trying to destroy his freedom to freely practice his religion. Why aren’t Todd Starnes and Fox News jumping on the religious freedom bandwagon here, hmmm?

  16. JoAnn, I read the interview of the wife of one of the victims. From what I have read he was a “born again” Messianic Jew, devoting himself to Jesus. I can believe the old saying Religion is the Opiate of the masses. Some people it seems take this Religious Opiate to the extreme, that is it begins to not only cloud, but also cause serious interference in judgement. Like crack or heroin you have to take in more and more of the Religious Opiate, it begins to rule your life but also has an influence on those around you, as you try to rule their lives. One extreme example was the Taliban blowing up the statues of Buddha carved into a mountain in Afghanistan.

    There is a myth about the American Melting Pot, i.e., we welcome new comers. No Irish need apply. This attitude even infected the Media of the day >> “The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things”, depicted a drunken Irishman lighting a powder keg and swinging a bottle. Published 2 September 1871 in Harper’s Weekly. In Northern Ireland we had the period of the “Troubles” in the mid 20th Century, there are still “Peace Lines” actually walls to separate the Catholics from Protestants.

    My own experience as a Boomer and growing up in the Chicago Area is neighborhoods even then were defined by racial, and ethnic groups. Blacks, Hispanics, and various ethnic whites had congregated in certain areas. It seems humanity has always divided itself along, racial, ethnic and even tribalism and then toss in Religion into the mix.

    We have since my youth as a Boomer become far more integrated as a society. Blacks, Hispanics and whites are sprinkled in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, we still have these poisonous people who now have not only themselves and fellow travelers to validate their hatred for everyone not like me, but also an Internet Community.

    I suppose in way we have to try to accept people as individuals allow for differences but not allow ourselves to become intimidated by these differences, this works both ways.

  17. I don’t know your Gov Pence but suspect he’s struggling under the same cross as many other Americans. He’s paid to solve problems for Hoosiers yet he has not the faintest idea how to. His pay is predicated on getting votes. That he does know how to do.

    So he’s a vote getting not a problem solving machine. Of course luck is also on his side. Hoosiers like many other groups here and now are entertainment junkies not reality worshippers. Put on something that resembles an athletic contest and they’ll flock in droves to the venue, even if it is voting booth, wearing the team logo.

    Go team!

    All of this would be fine, fun even, except that it’s at the expense of adult governance. I’m afraid that Kate’s quote is perfect. The kids have grown up in years and stature but never left the playground.

    Ronald Reagan, formerly the country’s oldest child, taught his playmates that government doesn’t matter. It and people like himself are the problem; they are incapable of causing solutions.

    We agree Ronnie.

    As is true of all children’s parties adult preside.

    Hillary, Bernie and Barak, time to send the overtired over fed sugar besotted kids home, clean up, and get ready for work.

  18. Certainty would be such a nice thing, but it’s a fantasy to insist that it be reality. It would be wonderful if we could accurately predict that we have enough money to retire, that we will live long and healthy lives and if we could predict exactly who is and who is not dangerous to himself or others. Unfortunately, the FBI director only said the truth about what it means to be human. We can only do the best we can at predicting who will or will not be a terrorist, whether your neighbor will kill his wife or himself or if any of us will survive 2015, let alone 2016.

    The person who insists on certainty is trapped in a delusion, driven by fear of the unknown while failing to fulfill one’s duty to others: be open to treating others with mercy and kindness. The consequence is only rational: that behavior is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Treat others with distrust and the expectation that they will hurt you, and you will give them sufficient reason to eventually do so.

  19. Sheila – thank you for tackling this subject. You are so correct that our home grown murderers and jihadists pose a much greater threat than refugees.

    Our refugee entry process is VERY rigorous and time consuming. Applicants must jump through the hoops of 8 different federal agencies here AFTER the U.N. has done background checks. The U.S. also checks on prospective refugees with international investigative agencies including Interpol.

    Syrians and Iraqi refugees are subjected to more extensive U.S. investigations than others. Their background checks include police and financial records, military and employment history, family members, social media conversations, travel records, and more. Syrians have been denied refugee status for actions as innocent as selling a food stand sandwich in an occupied neighborhood to an ISIS member.

    The magnitude of the terrorism risk from refugees is slim to none. According to the conservative CATO Institute (http://www.cato.org/blog/syrian-refugees-dont-pose-serious-security-threat), of the 859,629 refugees from all countries entering the U.S. since 2001, 3 have been convicted for planning a terrorist attack ABROAD. ZERO have perpetrated domestic attacks.

    Refugees are very law-abiding. “I think I can count on one hand the number of crimes of any significance that I’ve heard have been committed by refugees,” said Lavinia Limón, a veteran of refugee work since 1975 and the president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “It just hasn’t been an issue.” I wish the rest of America were as law abiding as our Muslim refugees.

    According to Fortune.com’s international office, “Among the refugees attempting to get in (to Europe) are the remnants of Syria’s middle class: doctors, engineers, and teachers fleeing Assad’s barrel bombs in Aleppo, or the reign of terror ushered in by the Islamic State.” Fortune contends they would bring vitality and opportunity to an aging European continent. They would do the same here.

    (A few weeks ago, my Methodist church welcomed a new membership class which included a woman from Atlanta Georgia who is married to an immigrant Muslim surgeon who is a heart-transplant specialist. My pastor noted that she and her husband attend both a Methodist and Muslim church service EACH Sabbath.)

    USA visa and asylum procedures are much less rigorous even though some news media incorrectly lump them together with refugees. If a foreign terrorist unknown to the U.S. gets a visa to travel here, he can easily obtain an arsenal of assault weapons at a gun show with no background check whatsoever. Our fear of refugees is misplaced. We are much more at risk from virtually everyone else.

  20. Pete; save your concern for Pence, he isn’t struggling under anything but the fact that this entire state did not automatically accept his RFRA law or the “fix” which he is again in the process of fixing. He has done his best to bring the education system in this state to a grinding halt.

    Sheila; a mutual friend of our had a saying years ago when he was Director of DCS. “Be nice to the little people on the way up, because you are going to pass them on the way down.” Someone should point this out to the Republican party whose standards of humanity are nearing rock bottom. Think of Trump’s downward plunge – if we are lucky enough to witness it.

  21. Of course all of these details obscure the real issue that confounds us. Are we better off as individuals beating the competition, others, or are we better off collaborating with others?

    I believe that the major reason that question confounds us is that the answer has evolved. There was a time when winning the competition resulted in better adapted traits winning natural selection. That was about 4 or 5 billion people ago but not that long in years.

    Now, like it or not, we are all in the same boat and sinking it will put us all in the same place.

    We must keep the boat floating. Conservatives are wildly rocking it trying to throw others to the sharks.

    A tragedy of the commons. We can all survive and flourish if everybody rows.

  22. Since when did evidence matter in our society at all? Certainly not in the past decade. Or we’d be expanding welfare programs not contracting them, and the military wouldn’t be gender integrating the infantry. But we live in a world where people cherry pick data and both sides prefer to live in their happy places.

    On the bright side, this keeps the consulting industry booming. So long as you can pay there’s an “expert” in your corner.

  23. It is my firm belief that the saying, “You can’t con an honest man.” was coined by a con man to con-vince the honest man he had not been conned. Just as most thieves expect everyone to steal from them, most honest people expect (or used to expect) honesty from others. Just sayin’

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