Why I Don't Worry About Immigration

Aard regular Phil often expresses worry about the effects of immigration. This has reached the point where I've decided to collect a few points to explain why I am not worried. Phil recently even claimed that when I say I'm not worried, I create more support for anti-immigration movements. This makes no sense to me. I know a lot of fear-and-hate voters are poorly educated, but I don't think they're all stupid.

So here's why I don't worry about immigration.

  • I have lived for 21 years (and counting) on a multicultural 1970s housing estate and seen very few problems.
  • My first wife was a second-generation immigrant from Finland and my second wife is an immigrant from China.
  • I know loads of immigrants personally. Just my weekly gaming group includes 1st and 2nd generation immigrants from Venezuela, Iran, Israel, Russia and the Netherlands. My nearest neighbours include people from Turkey, Poland, Finland, Pakistan and Serbia.
  • My next-door neighbours are a housing unit for single Middle-eastern male refugees who have been given asylum and are learning Swedish. They are not causing any trouble. (Nor for that matter is the housing unit for autism-spectrum youth next door to them.)
  • I have met a lot of Middle-eastern and Central Asian refugees, even had a few over for lunch, and they seem like nice people.
  • About 1% of old-timey Swedes get convicted for crimes. About 2% of immigrants in Sweden get convicted for crimes. Two much stronger predictors for crime are being male and being poor, but even among poor men in Sweden, the vast majority are honest.
  • Immigrants buy stuff, pay taxes, start companies and create jobs. Many even arrive with university degrees for which Sweden pays nothing.
  • Immigration, crucially, counteracts Sweden's Japan-like tendency to a process of demographic collapse. Regardless of ethnic origin, living in Sweden causes people to make babies at way below the replacement rate.
  • I enjoy the cultural diversity that 60 years of high-volume immigration has given to Swedish society.
  • Any problems that immigration causes Sweden, in addition to the important positives listed above, pale when compared to the problems that cause people to migrate. I am a cosmopolitan humanist. I don't think suffering is OK as long as it stays outside the Swedish border.

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In Sweden what is income disparity between regions like? In particular are there old industrial regions that are suffereing? This was the cause of anti immigrant feeling in England, and in the US (Trump won states which were old industrial areas that for one reason or another (largely automation IMHO) felt the future was dark. My suspicion is that regional inequality and income movements between regions lead to a desire to restrict.

Our old industrial regions are currently gentrifying suburbs of major cities populated by video game designers and pop music producers. The populist voter is typically an unemployed and poorly educated male in a small provincial town.

Many of these points are consistent with a notion I have developed that the more frequently someone interacts with immigrants as peers, the less likely that person is to fear immigrants.

I live in a town that is home to a research university. Which means that even though I live in one of the whitest US states, I live in a town that many immigrants call home. Over the years I have had colleagues from China, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia, Bulgaria, Greece, Malta, Germany, France, Sweden, Peru, and Canada--that's just within my own department, and not counting temporary visitors (for which I would be able to add Argentina, Norway, Switzerland, and Poland). There are enough East Asians around to support a small Asian grocery store in this town with population in the low five digits. So I, too, find immigrants enriching.

I also have relatives in South Dakota, where my mother grew up. AFAICT, my relatives who still live there are wingnuts, and they almost never come into contact with people of different backgrounds--maybe the occasional Mexican construction worker, but that's it. There aren't any abandoned industrial areas to speak of in South Dakota; it's more of a rural economy, like the areas of Sweden Martin identifies as being prone to populism. A bunch of banks have set up divisions in Sioux Falls, which is what passes for a big city out there (population ~100k), in order to take advantage of favorable state laws (e.g., no usury laws, which makes Sioux Falls a convenient base of operations for credit card issuers).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 14 Feb 2017 #permalink

Yeah, it's largely fear of the unknown. But I believe there's also a widespread attitude where your local pizza Turk is OK, but you see him as an exception and hate all the other Turks who you don't know personally. I'm sure many Hate Party voters quite happily frequent the Kurdish-owned Viking Pizza place I blogged about the other day.

Same deal in Oz with the hijab-clad Afghan woman who ran the shop selling fresh fruit and vegetables (plus all kinds of bulk nuts, lollies, etc. plus some 'exotic' stuff like hummus) - she was everyone's favourite person because she sold a better range and better quality stuff at lower prices than the adjacent supermarket, and because she was a lovely pleasant woman. Meanwhile, all other hijab-clad women got circumnavigated and stared at suspiciously as if they harboured some kind of dreadful disease.

Of course, this feeds back into itself - the Muslim women who get treated like sh*t quickly learn not to try to be friendly to anyone, so then they develop a reputation for being unfriendly and not 'assimilating'.

The bitter lesson I learned, from watching the way people treated my Chinese wife and 'Asian looking' daughter, is that it is all very well complaining about people not assimilating, but if the locals will not permit you to assimilate, no matter how hard you try to fit in and do all the right stuff, be friendly to everyone and whatever, you just can't assimilate. People won't let you. So you end up hanging out in Chinatown, or at the shopping centre in the poorest suburb where all the 'unacceptable' migrants and refugees live, because at least there, people will treat you like a normal person. Plus you get to do some fun things like watch impossibly tall, slender African ladies wheeling their shopping home in the supermarket trollies (they always return them on the next shopping trip, although sometimes to the wrong supermarket, which creates visual fun in itself), chat to the Vietnamese news agent about nothing in particular or discuss varieties of tea with the old Afghan guy who runs the tea shop, which alleviate the hugely tedious and tiresome, endless, mind-numbing sameness of the white populated suburban sprawl.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 15 Feb 2017 #permalink

Assuming that I am the Phil (no-one calls me that) you mention, let me say that almost all of your points apply to me: immigrant myself, wife an immigrant (both from non-EU countries), many neighbours immigrants, many colleagues at work immigrants, many immigrants live nearby, few if any problems with any of them (and even then not because they were immigrants). On the other hand, some problems are caused by lack of integration, and I don't see what the point is in ignoring them.

The small number can't be a reason to ignore them. How many violent neonazis are there? A very small number, compared to the whole of society. But no sensible person advocates ignoring their actions, or even their words, just because there aren't many of them.

Yes, some crimes committed by immigrants have nothing to do with the fact that they are immigrants, at least not directly. However, this doesn't mean that there are no problems at all in relation to immigration. Why did the socialist government of Sweden (a party not known for anti-immigration sentiment) decide to close the doors?

I also think that it is rather cynical that only people who enter the country illegally have a chance at asylum---the people who are really in trouble don't have that chance. And smugglers are deemed enemies of the people, yet without smugglers, most recognized asylum seekers wouldn't be where they are now.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 15 Feb 2017 #permalink

I'm not advocating us ignoring crime. I'm saying that I need to pass 98 immigrants in the street before I pass one who's had a speeding ticket.

The Labour government closed our borders because Sweden could no longer offer refugees Swedish standard housing. I protested against this decision in the streets of Stockholm. After all, the refugees weren't demanding Swedish standards. Still, Sweden has taken in a very large number of refugees per capita compared to other EU countries.

if the locals will not permit you to assimilate, no matter how hard you try to fit in and do all the right stuff, be friendly to everyone and whatever, you just can’t assimilate

We have this issue in the US as well. People who trace their ancestry to sub-Saharan Africa have never been allowed to assimilate in the US--many states had "one drop" laws declaring anybody who had a black ancestor to be black. As recently as 1967 your marriage (white man, Chinese woman) would have been illegal in many US states. We used to have "sundown towns"--towns where non-whites had to leave by sunset--and not just in the South. Black migrants to our northern industrial cities were steered into certain neighborhoods and denied access to mortgages. Not surprisingly, segregation of black people is still a major issue in this country, and leads to vicious stereotyping. Paul LePage, governor of the next state over from me, is every bit as bad as Australia's Hanson--he accuses black people of bringing drug problems to Maine, without evidence. Maine does have a drug problem, as does much of rural small-town America, but AFAICT the problem in Maine is home-grown.

Likewise with Latinos. Some of them can and do pass for white. But those with obvious African, indigenous, or mixed ancestry are still subject to discrimination. Too many white Americans assume that such people are illegal immigrants, even though many Latinos have been Americans for far longer than said white people ("We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us").

South Dakota has very few blacks or Latinos, but they do have a surviving indigenous population, which is treated in much the same way. White Americans have a history of not honoring treaties with indigenous peoples, who have mostly been forced onto reservations, and many of those reservations look like Third World hellholes.

Contrast the history of people from European backgrounds. At various times Scandinavians, Germans, Finns, Irish, Italians, and East Europeans have been targets of discrimination, to say nothing of Jews. Today there are still some nut-fringe anti-Semites, but all of those other groups are now accepted in the mainstream.

Americans of Asian ancestry see all of this, and many are nervous for understandable reasons. They were once a frowned-upon minority, too; at one time Chinese were barred by law from immigrating to the US. During World War II, Americans of Japanese ancestry were forced into concentration camps; Americans of German or Italian ancestry were allowed to live their lives as before. For the moment, at least in large metro areas most of which are in coastal states, they are being allowed to assimilate. But that's not true in much of the rural US. Many of them hear the rhetoric that Republicans have been directing at Latinos and Muslims, and recognize that this rhetoric could as easily be directed at them or their parents. This is why most Americans of Asian ancestry vote for Democrats.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 15 Feb 2017 #permalink

@Eric: Certainly true in the US. But, in general, it is not true that all immigrants who don't immigrate want to but are prevented from doing so. Some don't want to. Yes, a minority, but that's no reason to ignore them if they are causing problems for others (including the vast majority of immigrants).

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 15 Feb 2017 #permalink

@Phillip: The claims you are making about Swedish immigrants not assimilating sound very much like claims in the early 20th century US of immigrants not assimilating. Assimilation is not an instantaneous process; it typically takes two to three generations even under ideal circumstances.

Most people lose the ability to learn to speak a new language like a native between the ages of six and 10. A lucky few never lose it, but at least as many lose it even earlier. So most immigrants, unless they arrived as small children, always retain the accent of the native country when speaking the language of the adopted country. The first generation born in the new country, as well as those who came as small children, typically have to straddle both worlds, serving as interpreters for their parents as well as adapting themselves to the new society. Depending on the observer, these people may not seem to be fully assimilated. Only with the second generation do you have children growing up in a house where the parents speak the local language with native accents. This generation might be able to assimilate, if conditions are ideal. But often the grandparents are still alive, and they can slow the process when (as in many cultures) elders are absolutely to be respected. It's not until the third generation that you get people growing up without relatives who have firsthand memories of life in the old country.

In some cases intermarriage, whether with people from the dominant ethnic group or with immigrants from other countries, can speed up the process. This is one of the ways by which European immigrants are assimilated in the US. But if one or both of the couple look obviously different from people of the dominant ethnic group, this doesn't necessarily help. Likewise, traditions that discourage intermarriage can slow the process. But in my experience, most people want to be "normal", whatever that may mean, and in most countries that includes adopting the local culture to the extent that you are allowed.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 15 Feb 2017 #permalink

"As recently as 1967 your marriage (white man, Chinese woman) would have been illegal in many US states."

Don't remind me, Eric. I'm done with breast-beating about prejudice against mixed marriage, that hateful word "miscegenation" and bizarre notions of 'pure' races. if ever there was a f*cked up concept, that's it. I'm over it. I no longer care.

It's just as well a lot of modern people were not around during the 'great homogenisation' during the Neolithic - they would explode with indignation.


"Imagine, for example, that all Northern Europeans and Han Chinese mixed together, so that there were no "pure" Northern Europeans and Han Chinese left, and a mixed population created a new identity. That is what occurred during the Holocene homogenization.... "

By Asparagus (not verified) on 15 Feb 2017 #permalink

"The claims you are making about Swedish immigrants not assimilating sound very much like claims in the early 20th century US of immigrants not assimilating. Assimilation is not an instantaneous process; it typically takes two to three generations even under ideal circumstances."

First, not claims about "immigrants", claims about a small minority. Not claims, really; facts.

Lack of assimilation is one thing; the reasons for it are another. Yes, there was discrimination against women, minorities, etc in the past, but that doesn't mean that any black woman who doesn't get a Grammy doesn't get it due to discrimination. Same here. The fact of lack of assimilation can be the same, but the reasons different. In the old days, there was little contact with the home country. Today, there are telecommunications, cheap flights, etc. This makes it easy to hang on.

No-one cares about an accent. That never stopped Henry Kissinger or Arnold Schwarzenegger from being true U.S. citizens. It is about parents who don't allow their children to take swimming lessons in school and things like that.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 16 Feb 2017 #permalink

"facts" - I've been waiting for some. Haven't seen any yet.

"No-one cares about an accent." Do you want to bet? We are not talking about a big white and very wealthy movie star in America who married a Kennedy, and even he has still copped plenty throughout his multiple careers for his accent.

"parents who don’t allow their children to take swimming lessons" Well, just how egregious is the behaviour of these thugs in Malmö? Do they permit their kids to get vaccinated?

Sorry, Phillip, but I am beginning to take you very not seriously.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 16 Feb 2017 #permalink

No-one cares about an accent.

I infer that you have never taught at a US university. Many of my foreign-born friends who have, at various institutions and from various countries, often report that students complain about their English. Not because my friends lack fluency, but because they don't speak English with a standard American accent. Students from most rural areas of the US never encounter anybody who speaks with an accent other than standard American until they go to a university where some of the professors are foreign born.

Of course it affects their job prospects. They are unlikely to be hired for jobs where they would be expected to deal on a regular basis with the common clay of the new west, because some of those customers will inevitably complain to management, which would prefer to avoid the headache. (Yes, there are laws against discrimination, but it would be hard to prove your case.) And managers tend to promote people who are like themselves, all other things being equal (this is a contributing factor to gender disparity as well as ethnic disparity).

That doesn't mean that immigrants with particular talents won't succeed. They do in academia precisely because academics are more likely to have encountered foreign-born colleagues and can therefore deal with accents. Likewise, Kissinger and Schwarzenegger were particularly good at their respective professions (realpolitik and acting certain kinds of roles in certain kinds of movies, respectively). But there is a common thread to these cases: for superstars, whether in academia, politics, or entertainment, they themselves are the brand. It takes a certain level of talent and self-confidence to pull this off. Not everybody has it. Others, such as Sergei Brin, started their own companies. Again, it takes a certain amount of skill, talent, and luck to pull that off.

In the US, the native born children of native born parents are at least as likely as immigrants/first-generation kids to have parents who want to exclude them from certain school activities. Lots of Americans take their religion far too seriously, and the overwhelming majority of those who do are people who call themselves Christian (any resemblance between their doctrine and what Yeshua bin Yosef actually taught is purely coincidental, but that's a separate rant). It's common for immigrant parents to want their children to have some contact with the ancestral culture, but they also want their children to learn English and do well in school so that the children will have better job opportunities.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Feb 2017 #permalink

Not only does my Chinese wife get a hostile reception when she speaks to contemporary Australian English speakers because of her accented and imperfect (but perfectly intelligible) English, my daughter does also, and she speaks English far better, more precisely and more grammatically correctly (in fact, she is an absolute pedant about it) than contemporary Australian English speakers.

So why does my daughter get the hostile reception when speaking to her 'fellow countrymen'? It is certainly not due to lack of clarity; her spoken English is faultlessly clear and precise. 1. She does not use the current sleazy slurred slang that younger Australians take (hugely erroneously) for 'correct' common usage modern English, 2. (And I don't know how this happened) she speaks like Queen Elizabeth II, rather than with the 'appropriate' Australian accent/slur. Even I can't resist the occasional humorous leg-pull when she is sounding ever so upper class British, but there is really no excuse for a hostile reception; it is just straight out jingoistic nationalistic xenophobia.

It is so bad that my daughter taught herself to speak with a strong Australian accent and tutored herself in some of the slang that she uses when she is in-country, because she is so painfully aware of how much this affects the reception she gets.

These days, I have trouble understanding younger Australians when they speak to me, and I was born in the country of parents and grand parents who were born in the country. Plus I also get a hostile reaction because my Australian accent, never very strong, has disappeared, and I don't use and struggle to understand the current very ugly slang - so by sound I *must* be *foreign*, even though I might well be talking to someone who has much less claim to be a native of the country than I have.

Contrast with the reception I get from ordinary Chinese people in Hong Kong when I speak to them in my accented and imperfect Cantonese - they either just react to me as a 'normal' person, or smile and praise me for the excellence of my pronunciation (in fairness, Cantonese is considered the world's most difficult language to learn due to the tonal subtleties, much more difficult than Mandarin, plus there is definitely a bit of a 'thing' with HK people insisting on their right to continue to speak Cantonese instead of converting to the national Putonghua, so there is a subtle 'solidarity' thing going on when I converse with a Hongkie in 'our' language, as opposed to those Mainlanders who bray at everyone in Mandarin). The one thing I never get is hostility for not sounding like a native.

If you think accents don't matter, Phillip, you are living in cuckoo land. You need to get out more.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

I am recalling with humour the time recently when a Hong Kong taxi driver addressed me as 'Big Brother'. I am totally accustomed to young Chinese kids, even total strangers, addressing me as 'Uncle'; it's just a polite form of address. When I get older they will start calling me 'Grandfather'. But when an ordinary working class Cantonese guy calls a foreigner 'Big Brother' you know you have really made it. It doesn't get any more respectful than that.

What happened was, I jumped into this cab, and the driver looked at me with abject panic on his face. Then I told him in Cantonese where I wanted to go, and he relaxed completely and drove off. He had been driving in silence for a couple of minutes when he let out a big sigh of relief and said "Aiyee, Big Brother, I was so scared when you got in, because I can't speak a single word of English. It's so lucky for me that you speak Cantonese." I wanted to ask him how in hell I could be his brother, but thought better of it, and just felt gratified. Cantonese generally don't hold foreigners in great respect (or anyone else non-Cantonese, for that matter - "The mountains are high, and the Emperor is far away"), although they won't show it, but I felt that day like I had finally 'arrived'.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

Chinese people tend to simultaneously be favourably impressed by the fact that I have any vocab at all, and extremely entertained by my abysmal pronunciation.

Do you intentionally not want to get my point?

Sure, there are jerks who discriminate based on accent, or hairstyle, or whatever. They are jerks. My point is that no-one with legitimate complaints about immigrant culture (FGM, for example) is objecting to this because the people in question have an accent.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

Well, if you are so obscure, or incapable of elucidating what your point is, you can't really blame me for that.

FGM is a criminal offence in Australia. It is also a criminal offence in Australia if parents take their kids overseas to have it done, and if the Australian authorities find out, the parents will be arrested and charged with a criminal offence when they re-enter the country. No Muslim immigrants in Australia have ever made an attempt to be exempted from this legislation. My understanding is that it is a cultural practice among certain ethnic groups, not a uniform religious practice under Islam.

If FGM is not illegal in Sweden and Germany, it should be, and it's high time that people put pressure on their governments to legislate against it. It is not a matter of respecting other people's cultural practices, it is a matter of protecting the rights of children not to be mutilated. But I imagine (but don't know if) it already is illegal in Sweden and Germany.

I have some personal knowledge on this subject, because I have been friends since childhood with three Indonesian sisters who told me what was done to them and how it has affected their lives, and I harbour very strong feelings about it. Not all Indonesians do it, by any means. It tends to be perpetrated by the mothers, not the fathers. ("What was good enough for me is good enough for my daughters" sort of thing.)

That is not a reason to refuse entry to immigrants who might already have FGMd their kids before migrating, when they were living in a society where it was the accepted practice. It is a reason to prosecute them if they do it after they have migrated to Sweden or Germany, assuming it is illegal in those countries, which I sincerely hope is the case.

I don't actually know what the law is in Hong Kong, because the subject simply never comes up. I guess I could look it up, but it appears not to be an issue here. Chinese certainly don't do it, obviously. I don't think even the Hui do it - I've certainly never heard of them doing it.


I'm still waiting for some facts on what bad things the migrants in Malmö do now that they are resident there, and are different or worse than anyone else does, and not getting any.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

FGM is illegal in Sweden.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

Quoting Asparagus@19:

I’m still waiting for some facts on what bad things the migrants in Malmö do now that they are resident there, and are different or worse than anyone else does, and not getting any.


@Phillip: As I have pointed out repeatedly, the arguments you have been making are pretty much the same arguments that have been made before about earlier immigrant communities that eventually did assimilate. Those arguments were wrong then. I have yet to see you make a convincing case that the situation with these immigrants is materially different from that of previous immigrant communities. Absent such evidence, my default assumption is that those arguments are still wrong. The burden of proof is on you here.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

I would say that claiming "all immigrants are alike" is a typical example of discrimination, like when Trump asked a black reporter if the Black Caucus were her friends, i.e. all in a certain group must think alike. I've mentioned many things which are different: telecommunications, cheap flights, etc.

This thread was inspired by my comment in another thread, where I posted the following link:


Apologies if you don't read German, but I learned recently that Google Translate had improved their algorithms, so the translation should be more or less OK.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

You continue to miss the point. My argument is not that all immigrants are alike, but rather that their situation is similar to that of earlier immigrant communities that were claimed at the time to not be assimilating but eventually did assimilate.

The only thing that's different about telecommunications is the time scales involved. If you are close to my age or older, you may recall that it was once common for people with some relationship who were in distant locations to write these things called letters, which would be sent by post and arrive anywhere from a few days to a few weeks later. So the immigrants could tell their relatives in the old country how things were going in the new country, and vice versa. The only change there is that people will get the news in hours instead of weeks.

Travel was harder and more expensive, too, but that doesn't mean people didn't travel. The ones who could afford it simply took fewer trips of longer duration. Note also that your objection about cheap flights does not apply to refugees, who are desperate to get out of whatever hellhole they are trying to leave and have no interest whatsoever in returning as long as it remains a hellhole.

It's possible you have convinced yourself of the merits of your argument. You haven't convinced me, and AFAICT you haven't convinced Martin or Asparagus either.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

Birger@20 - Thank you.

So, Phillip, the complaints about immigrant culture are irrelevant. FGM is illegal in Sweden.

That newspaper article is a poorly researched and poorly written paranoid 'panic' piece, all anecdotal he said - she said stuff, with a couple of cherry-picked examples of random violent crimes, years apart. There are no data, no statistics. As Eric correctly notes, I am far from convinced.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

OTT (off tedious topic), this guy has figured it out - making himself completely independent of the commercial (i.e. privatised) power companies, and generating all of his own power needs.

Only two things he has got wrong: the first is that if he gets a big enough battery (Tesla Powerwall or whatever; there is plenty of competition in that sector and the price is coming down fast), which will tide him over the short periods when his solar panels are not generating enough; the second is that he needs to get rid of the filthy back-up diesel generator and build his own wind turbine.

Of course, if he has close neighbours, he could strike problems with loonies who claim that living near wind turbines has adverse effects on their health. If not for those nut cases, just about every home in Australia could install its own wind turbine which, in combination with a big enough recyclable battery installed in-house, would be enough to see them through any kind of weather conditions.

The other thing is the Elon Musk touch of brilliance - you don't mount solar panels on your roof; you build the whole roof out of robust, long-lasting, attractive roof tiles which are themselves solar collectors, so you are collecting the maximum possible solar energy, regardless of the season and angle of the sun.

Then you trade in the gas guzzling SUV for a Tesla or other electric car, and you are done - you will never need to pay another power bill or fuel bill in your life, and are fully independent from the profit-oriented power and oil companies that are busily gouging everyone. They can all go bankrupt and disappear, and the sooner that happens the better.

This is the future, and it is within immediate grasp - in Australia, it could be the 'new normal' within a few years from now.

Sweden is more difficult; I don't know enough about the geography, climate and geology of Sweden to have an immediate answer, but I don't doubt that solutions can be fine. In Sweden's case, they may well need to involve nuclear, although I would be having a good close look at further prospects for hydro, and maybe geothermal. Same with New England; I don't know enough, but there have to be options.

Blimey, when I visited Tianjin in 'backward' China in 1996, they were already using geothermal - not experimentally; it was part of the operating power network.

No one in Australia seems to have bothered with geothermal because there is so much solar radiation and wind power, not to mention tide and wave power; but the geothermal potential in many parts of Australia must also be enormous.

Is any political party in Australia looking at all of this and steering the country towards a sustainable energy policy? No, of course not. Where's the political mileage in talking about the future when you only get elected every four years?

So people are doing it for themselves. It needs to be driven by financial incentive, but personal financial incentive - over a span of 10 years, the total investment is recovered, which is nothing; the average mortgage to buy a house is 20 or 25 years, and size of the investment needed for independent home power supply is nothing like the cost of a house.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 17 Feb 2017 #permalink

Meanwhile, Australia has put itself in the bizarre position that it has huge reserves of natural gas, which was very cheap when used only for national consumption, but now that it is sold to other countries at very much higher prices (in other words, Australia is gouging its trading partners on the price of LNG, just because they can) there has to be 'export price parity', so LNG has been priced out of the market in Australia and the preferred option is to use coal. What genius.


And people expect state and federal politicians to come up with a rational, sustainable energy policy. They will be waiting a long time, and they can forget being able to count on the coal and gas miners, and the privatised power companies, who have no commercial interest in paying for spare capacity to cater for surges in electricity demand during prolonged heat waves, which are becoming a regular feature in southern Australia, and will continue to do so with increasing frequency.


I differ from Garnaut in one respect - forget about relying on governments and the big power companies to pull this off. They won't; at least, not with the tax payers' interests at heart. This needs to be done by 'people power' - people doing it for themselves at community level, and maybe sharing surplus energy with their neighbours, and not letting big business get a stranglehold on the renewables market - because whenever big business gets a stranglehold on anything, ordinary people get massively screwed, and politicians won't stop it; they will be up to their necks in it due to vested interests.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 18 Feb 2017 #permalink

Weird times !
No, there was no terrorist attack here in Sweden last week, despite the claim made by Donald Trump in a recent televised speech

-That's three claims made by the White House about terrorist attacks that did not take place:
Bowling Green, Atlanta, Sweden.

Here is the background, courtesy of Huffington Post:

"Sweden, which has a population of around 9.5 million, has let in nearly 200,000 refugees in response to the wave of asylum seekers arriving in Europe that peaked during the summer of 2015. The generous policy, which has proved controversial, means the Scandinavian country has taken in more refugees per capita than any other European nation.

The people Sweden has allowed to enter come mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, countries undergoing devastating conflicts"

-My comment:: Trump - who has access to NSA, CIA and the State Department and its embassies worldwide- gets his overseas news items from twitter and other social media, absorbing tons of fake news in the process.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 19 Feb 2017 #permalink

Birger@30: On another blog I read, which focuses on US politics, commenters are suggesting that Trump got this idea from a report by Tucker Carlson on Fox News. Fox News is Rupert Murdoch's TV propaganda outlet in the US, and Carlson was the alleged journalist who was epically taken down by Jon Stewart on his own show. So not a reliable source.

Yes, Trump gets intelligence reports. The thing about intelligence reports is that they are only useful to the intelligent.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Feb 2017 #permalink


Tucker Carlson is an idiot, and Trump's stupidity is truly terrifying. The fact that Trump is getting his news from someone like Carlson, and then still badly misinterpreting it, is deeply worrying.

Meanwhile, I have still not seen any data to support this claimed 'surge in gun violence and rape', or that any increase in violent crime rates is directly attributable to the 'influx of immigrants'. Sweden tends to rank moderately high in international data on rape and sexual assault rates anyway, but that is because Sweden applies particularly strict definitions to what constitute rape and sexual assault, e.g. staring at someone can be classed as sexual assault - I don't know of any other country that applies such a strict definition. Plus Sweden has a small population. IOW, it is an artefact of the crime definitions/classifications, which make direct comparisons of sex-related crime rates between Sweden and other countries particularly problematic - i.e. comparing apples with oranges, and comparing crime rates between Sweden and, say, the USA is also problematic because of the huge disparity in population sizes and geographical distributions.

As for gang violence, I noted Matti's comment on another thread about the Soldiers of Odin, so I looked them up. Like him, I really don't like the look of that crew either. Most of the gang violence in Australia is perpetrated by illegal bike gangs like Hell's Angels, Coffin Cheaters, Bandidos, etc. There are between 11 and 13 of them countrywide, altogether, and they control the illegal drugs trade in Australia. But most of the violence is intra- or inter-gang violence - they tend to leave civilians out of it because it's bad for business, but sometimes civilians can get caught in the crossfire.

But like the Australian bike gangs, the Soldiers of Odin look like home-grown 'native' white people to me, not recently arrived immigrants. Totally unrelated.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 19 Feb 2017 #permalink

Not to wish to be insulting, but the recent ancestry of American white folks is totally uninteresting to me, just as the recent ancestry of Anglo-Irish Australians is totally uninteresting to me. But I know that it *is* very much of interest to a lot of those Americans, so this might be of some interest to Eric and other American Aard readers:

By Asparagus (not verified) on 19 Feb 2017 #permalink

They must be kidding:

This is not about legislation being drafted for Hong Kong's Legislative Council by its own fully democratically elected legislators. No, this is about a piece of US legislation drafted by three US Senators, aimed at defending Hong Kong's 'freedom and democracy'. Talk about hegemonic overreach. What are they planning to do if they think HK's freedom and democracy are threatened - invade?

Seriously, guys: Hong Kong has a population that is 70% the size of Sweden's, and if folks in HK are concerned about this, they are perfectly capable of doing something about something that is their own business. HK is now and ever will be an inalienable part of China, simply because it is a physical and economic impossibility for it not to be. Most of our water supply, food supply, electricity and other essentials come directly across the border from the Mainland. Tourism in HK is now totally dominated by Mainland visitors. And in real terms, HK is one of the freest places in the world, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, one of the lowest rates of incarceration, and a complete lack of any kind of racial tension. In HK, I can go anywhere I like, and say publicly any damn thing I like, and no one will bother me. I don't even need a passport to get in and out - and I'm a 'foreigner'.

So, seriously, Marco Rubio and friends, thanks for your concern, but mind your own damn business.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 19 Feb 2017 #permalink

The country rock band Poco (in my estimation the best country rock band of all time, but commercial success eluded them) were so impressed with the real life story of Rose Dunn that they wrote a song dedicated to her:


By Asparagus (not verified) on 20 Feb 2017 #permalink

"Want to Know Exactly as Much About Sweden as the President? Watch the Documentary He Got His Information From!" http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2017/02/19/watch_the_documentary_th…
That Horowitz feller is the von Däniken of documentary programs!
I am looking forward to him making some film named "The Eternal Eskimo", blaming all the world's woes on the Eskimo World Conspiracy.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 20 Feb 2017 #permalink

Asparagus@32: Likewise, in the US a majority of the incidents that might be termed terror attacks are perpetrated by native born white people, most of them right-wing pseudo-Christian nuts.

Crime rates peaked in the early 1990s and have been declining since then. There is a convincing case to be made that the violent crime was largely fueled (pun intended) by leaded gasoline: the US phased out leaded gasoline in the 1970s, and children born after that time were less likely to become violent criminals. Naturally the impact fell hardest on inner city neighborhoods, which commuters drive through in going from their suburban homes to jobs in the city centers. The stereotype of the crime-ridden inner city dates from this period, and many people, including Donald Trump, have never updated their image of such neighborhoods, many of which are now thriving. I suspect Phillip's opinions on this subject have a similar origin.

I don't know when leaded gasoline was phased out in Sweden, but I have heard that Sweden's crime rate peaked circa 2005 and has been declining since. Based on this, I will guess that Sweden phased out leaded gasoline in the late 1980s. Martin, am I right?

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Feb 2017 #permalink

Regarding the news report on Fox News I mentioned upthread as the basis of Trump's claim about immigrants being a problem in Sweden, I found a report in Dagens Nyhetter (in English) to the effect that the Fox report should indeed not be trusted. Two policemen who were interviewed by filmmaker Ami Horowitz described him as a madman and claimed that their remarks were heavily edited--they were actually asking quite different questions. So the film Stockholm Syndrome turns out to be a piece of xenophobic propaganda. Surprise, surprise.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Feb 2017 #permalink

From Auntie Beeb: Alt-right editor challenges journalists to visit Sweden

He has chosen a US-based journalist of whom I have not previously heard to visit Malmö to investigate alleged "no-gp zones" and the alleged crime wave being blamed on migrants and refugees there.

Mr. Watson works for Infowars, which is Alex Jones's site. For anybody who doesn't know what that means: even by the standards of conspiracy theorists, the Infowars people are nucking futs. I would not take their word for it if they claimed the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

I side with Deputy Mayor Nils Karlsson here.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 21 Feb 2017 #permalink

Asparagus @27: I'm pretty sure Elon Musk debuted the solar roof in New England to prove that it would be useful there as well as the sunny Southwest.

BirgerJohansson @42: One of the segments of the recent version of Cosmos (With Dr Neil Degrass Tyson) specifically covered leaded gas and the fight to get rid of it.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 21 Feb 2017 #permalink

Thanks, JT - I didn't know that, and it's very interesting.

As long as the tiles are cheap enough (and given that they serve a dual purpose, so they could still be more expensive than ordinary roofing tiles, but worth the added value that they are all solar energy connectors), then it makes absolute sense to build the whole roof out of them, facing all directions, instead of just mounting a set of solar panels on one section of the roof facing the 'optimum' direction.

Musk being the minor genius that he is, I'm pretty confident that he would have tested them for the snow problem that Eric alluded to as well, plus factored in desirable battery life for a full charge, etc.

Changing subject completely, there was a news story a few days ago about people in Australia riding in a penny farthing bicycle race - yeah, the things were popular for fully 20 years in the 19th Century before more clever people built better, safer, more comfortable and much more efficient bicycles, but there are still people who are avid penny farthing fanatics. Some things defy rational explanation.

Anyway, the news story prompted me to remember you wondering how people get on and off the things, so I found this YouTube clip and have been meaning to post it for you:

Never mind you and your sentimental attachment to your wrist watch (I have the same sentimental attachment to mine and will never willingly part with it), this guy is still wearing a 19th Century pocket watch. And he *paid* someone to build him an exact replica penny farthing. I get the wrist watch thing, absolutely, but laying out that much cash for something that became obsolete after only 20 years more than 120 years ago, and that has no possible practical application? (e.g. cannot safely ride one on a public road, etc.) Why?

By Asparagus (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

Fortunately for her, my daughter was born after leaded petrol was completely phased out in Hong Kong. It could well be a part-explanation for why she is smarter than both me and my wife.

In HK, the resistance to phasing it out came *only* from the people who owned expensive cars of a vintage that could only run on leaded petrol - IOW, rich people, who claimed special dispensation to keep using it for a while. (Everyone else strongly supported banning it - try telling a Chinese person that something could have a depressive effect on his kid's intelligence, and watch how fast he will want to get rid of it.) That was tolerated for a short while, until the evidence against it's continued use became so overwhelming that the government plucked up the courage to tell the rich folks to take their precious heaps of junk elsewhere or put them in a museum.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

Stupidly, we've just had a big fuss here in HK (a totally justifiable fuss, I might add) because in several large housing estates, the fresh water pipes were soldered using...wait for it...lead solder.

Even I have known since childhood that for pipes supplying drinking water, you need to use special tin (i.e. lead free) solder, which is of course more expensive.

The plumbing contractor who did this claimed that he just didn't know you are not supposed to do it. I don't believe it. I would bet all apprenticed plumbers everywhere are taught this - that you never ever use ordinary lead solder on fresh water pipes.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink