Monday, March 19, 2007

Iraqis to U.S. soldiers:
"Please don't go! We want to kill you!"
Or why pollsters waste our time

In my opinion, public opinion polls are useless--kind of the mentally challenged younger sibling of the noble project of one-man-one-vote democracy. But when it comes to grinning idiocy, the antique media just can't get enough, so today we're going to hear a lot of nonsense about how many Iraqis feel nervous and how many don't, about how many can think of a family member hurt since the invasion and how many can't. Public opinion poll results are only slightly less malleable than Play-Doh. Reuters mentioned that the latest poll "oversampled" in Anbar, Sadr City, Basra, and Kirkuk. Oversampling is a bit of statistical funny business that seems hard to justify in this case, especially since quizzing residents of Anbar or Sadr City about the occupation is like stopping passersby in Berkeley and asking how they feel about Bush. Pollsters normally oversample to compensate for under-representation of minorities in random polls, and even in those cases I have my doubts over whether oversampling increases the poll's "accuracy" or whether it simply opens the door for manipulation by agenda-driven poll workers. Oversampling may have been partly to blame for the inaccurate exit polls that helped blow Kerry's chances in 2000.

As if to demonstrate the utter meaninglessness of opinion polls, this latest survey uncovered a startling bit of Iraqi cognitive dissonance.

Slightly more than half of Iraqis — 51 percent — now say that violence against U.S. forces is acceptable ...

About four in five Iraqis oppose the presence of U.S. troops but only a third want those U.S. troops to leave Iraq immediately.

That means that at least 18 percent of Iraqis think it's okay to shoot our soldiers and think our soldiers should stick around.

Now obviously this makes no sense, and only some pretty tricky (or pretty sloppy) polling could render results like that. The suspect figure is the 51 percent, which the pollsters say is a 300 percent jump from 2004. I'd like to know how the term "acceptable" was translated--whether a "yes" answer meant "I'd let my teenage son shoot at Americans" or something more akin to "shit happens"--a popular sentiment, incidentally, in Dar al Islam. I'd also like to know that the question was phrased the same way two years ago. But for some reason, mainstream media outlets never provide a full explanation of a poll's questionnaire and methodology. In this case, a little digging (about seven mouse clicks away) reveals that the poll workers' "oversampling" placed them in harm's way a number of times and subjected them to repeated questioning and harassment by Iraqi police. They were stopped from conducting interviews with female family members even when the poll protocol required it. And most importantly, they did not have the trust of the people they were questioning, a fact that pretty much invalidates the entire project.

The main reason behind this problem is the unstable security situation in this area, especially if we realize that the business of private research is new for Iraqis who are not familiar with such things. Many people believe that we are doing something against them and that we work for foreign interests.

If the interviewees cannot be certain they're not speaking with insurgent spies trying to root out coalition collaborators, they're not likely to give an honest opinion about the whole G.I. vs. jihadi popularity contest. And if the AP had more integrity, they would include these flaws in their own report on the poll, not bury them in hyperlinks or pass the buck to ABC (who sponsored the poll).

But we can't expect such integrity because it doesn't serve the mainstream media to reveal to us their biases, their agendas, their limitations or their manipulations. Like fast food, if we know too much about it, we just might stop swallowing it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Welcome to Crazy Town

Am I the only one who thinks this is nuts?

March 17, 2007 -- A mother and four children killed in a Bronx fire that left 10 people dead began their final trip home last night. Mamadou Soumare's Air France flight to Mali, via Paris, took off around 7 p.m. despite bad weather conditions, with the bodies of his wife and four children. The airline is covering the travel costs.
Soumare is to be greeted at the Bamako airport today at 9:20 p.m. by members of his extended family who have flown in from other African countries and Europe, and by hundreds of people from Tafacirga, his home village.
"All the preparations are in place for this," said Moussa N'Diaye, an uncle of Soumare's wife, Fatoumata Soumare.
"We are ready for Fatoumata and the children to come home," N'Diaye said.
Because he is residing in the United States illegally, Mamadou Soumare had to get special clearance from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to travel to Mali and return to The Bronx.
He is hoping to get permission for his three children living in Mali to return to the United States with him.

At the risk of sounding heartless, I believe we're letting our sympathy cloud our judgement. Mamadou Soumare did not merely "reside" here illegally. He worked here illegally (as a livery cab driver--which I thought was impossible), and brought his wife and children here illegally, all with the help of his cousin, Moussa Magassa. Magassa runs a kind of underground railroad for Malians wishing to skirt our nation's immigration laws in order to escape from the shithole their tribal and religious customs have made of their own nation.

"We are a very strong culture," Bukiray said. "We all live together. We share everything. I don't have to know you and I will give you money if you are from my tribe. Any country you go to in the world, you would just send a letter and then just come and you would have six months to stay at someone's house. It is OK, we are all family."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Mali said the Magassa household was well known in the country.

I might find the community's cohesiveness touching if it weren't illegally importing "cultural" practices I don't want to see infecting the society of my city. Malians suffer from all the symptoms of Islamic backwardness, and as usual, it's the female half of the population that suffers the worst. If you're born female in Mali, your prospects don't look too bright. You've got a 95% chance of having your clitoris and labia minora hacked off by the time you're five. And chances are one in four your family will marry you off for a "bride price" before your fifteenth birthday. You've got even odds that your husband will be twice your age or older. You most likely won't have much to say about who the lucky guy is, but don't complain, because the law allows him to rape you and the cops will allow him to beat you. And he can just go and get three more wives if he finds you tiresome. Oh, and you might get to go to school until you're made a wife, but it will probably be a Koranic school, so your chances of learning to read are about one in ten.

I can see why people would want to leave Mali. But the problem arises when Malians come to America not with the intention of leaving Mali behind, but rather with an elaborate (and in some ways illegal) plan for bringing Mali here.

An article in The New York Post describes Magassa's family as "always skirting the edge of poverty." Having eleven children and one income is a good way to guarantee perpetual poverty. Magassa filed for bankruptcy three years ago. The article also mentions that he had seven of those children with his wife, Manthia, and four of them with his second wife, Aissa. (And that's not "second wife" as in divorced-from-first-wife-married-to-second-wife, it's "Big Love" polygamy of the kind the authorities prosecute when Christians do it.) Aissa's name is particularly fitting, as she's only 23 and has four children. Her husband's age remains shrouded in mystery: not one reporter seems to have been able to turn up this basic bit of information. Nonetheless, a little simple math shows that Magassa may be following in the footsteps of the Prophet to an extent that could get him locked up. Moussa Magassa has a 7-year-old daughter. Reporters don't seem curious about whether that daughter is Manthia's or Aissa's, probably because the answer could raise another discomfiting problem. If the 7-year-old is Aissa's, what we have is more than polygamy. It's statutory rape.

Then there is the equally uncomfortable issue of negligence. Magassa had turned his three-story house in the Bronx into a multi-family dwelling. He had reportedly applied for permission to divide the building into three apartments, but permission had not been granted. Suppose for a moment that I have twenty-two people sleeping in my house, and I remove the batteries from the smoke-detectors, and I fail to provide any secondary means of egress (the house had only one staircase and no fire escapes), and have space-heaters going while everyone's asleep. And my house burns down. It wouldn't be Bloomberg visiting me, it would be the police. But then, I don't have multi-culturalism on my side.

I'm not opposed to immigration. My ancestors were immigrants. But letting the left's mantra of "one culture is just as good as another" become a tacit part of immigration policy is suicide. Of course Malians should be welcome in New York, so long as they are not polygamist, misogynist, primitivist, statutory-rapist Malians. It seems evident to me that the post-tragedy, melting-pot hug-fest over New York's Malian community is well-intentioned but dangerously misguided. Americans are ignoring obvious signs that their laws are being flouted, their cultural mores disregarded as irrelevant, their society duped into playing host for all the backwards crap that makes places like Mali what they are. As Richard P. Feynman said: "Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out."