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Crunching the Numbers

The current “You’re a racist!” versus “No, you’re an idiot!” kerfluffle running through American politics is whether or not the United States, and with it the rest of Christendom, ought to be providing assistance to people fleeing from Syria and other war-torn countries.  Another question is how rigorously these refugees should be checked before being handed identification papers, an EBT card, and the keys to their government-paid housing.

Before I go any further, let me say that I believe that the U.S. has a moral obligation to assist those who need it.  However, just because you’re charitable doesn’t mean you’re a sucker.

So, let’s talk about whether that aid should come in the form of allowing said refugees to enter our territory and roam freely among our populace, and the potential risks we take on by doing it.

First, let’s look at the 10,000 refugees that the President has said the United States will take from Syria in the next year.

Number of People 1% 0.10% 0.01%
10000 100 10 1

If there is a population of 10,000 refugees, we see the number of potential attackers to whom we open our gates if 1 percent, 1/10th of 1 percent, and 1/100th of 1 percent of them are terrorist infiltrators.

That’s really not a lot of people, but then, none of the major attacks in the past couple of decades have taken more than a platoon’s worth of people.

Incident Perpetrators Civilian Dead Civilian Injured
September 11th 19 2996 6000
London 4 56 700
Madrid 21 191 2050
Beslan 32 334 728
Bali 5 202 209
Paris 7 130 368
Mumbai 10 166 600
Boston 2 6 280

Of course, the number of perpetrators, for the most part, doesn’t include the number of people it took to plan, fund, and organize the attacks.  Let’s assume that those resources already exist, either here in the United States or abroad, and can be tapped by anyone who knows the proper secret handshake.

At .01%, there would probably be enough infiltrators to execute a Boston-style attack, or possibly a bombing like Bali or London.  Of course, it only takes one jackass to walk into a Super-Duper-Megamart on free popcorn Monday and blow himself sky-high to have an impact.

At .1%, there would be enough to replicate Mumbai, Paris, Bali, London, or Boston.

At 1%, we would have admitted enough attackers to perpetrate any of the attacks I’ve listed several times over.  That’s assuming that they didn’t try to do 50 or so little attacks on soft targets like shopping centers, schools, or hospitals, which would probably shake the American man and woman on the street even more.

These numbers are only for the expected number of Syrian refugees we plan on admitting.  It doesn’t take into account those we bring in from other Islamic war zones, such as Iraq or Afghanistan.  They also don’t account for people who come here with a neutral mindset, but decide, after they’ve been admitted to the United States, to bite the hand that feeds them.

So, what do we do?  How do we separate the needy sheep from the dangerous goats, or at least keep them away from the American herd?  As I see it, we have several options, all of them bad in one way or another –

  1.  Do nothing.  I don’t like this one.  Like I said, I feel a moral obligation to assist those truly in need.
  2. Allow in 10,000 Syrians after they are vetted as thoroughly as possible, but allow them to settle wherever they can find support. To me, this is the worst option, security wise.  If we do this, we’re relying on our ability to sniff out terrorist infiltrators with a sketchy background check and a few interviews.
  3. Establish refugee centers in the United States, as we did in the 1970’s for Cuban refugees, and keep the refugees there until they can be repatriated.  This will centralize management of the refugees and their needs, as well as allow our security services to more efficiently monitor the refugees for ‘radicalization’ or other indicators that they either came in as terrorists or are starting to lean that way.  If we insist on bringing them to our shores, I prefer this method.
  4. Establish and expand refugee centers in the region, such as has been done in Turkey.  This keeps the potential threat of terrorist infiltrators on the other side of the ocean, but also leaves the refugee populations within easy reach of ISIS and anyone else who wants to either victimize them or recruit from their numbers.  To me, however, this is the option that best insulates the American homeland from potential infiltration by terrorists disguised as refugees while still satisfying our moral obligation to assist and protect the innocent.

Whether or not we even consider military-aged males for refugee status is another debate entirely.  I lean toward the women, children, and old people only side of that argument.

Are we willing to chance that a few, and we are talking about a handful of people, get through the vetting process and do harm to Americans while living among us as refugees?  This is one of those “low probability but high cost” kinds of risks, I grant you.  But what is at risk because 1, or 10, or 100 terrorists abuse our hospitality and slip in along with those who truly deserve it and pose no harm?

To put it bluntly, what will be the cost in American blood for us to provide for these refugees, and are we willing to pay it?


This is from a short story in the Minivandians universe that will be in the upcoming collection.

Escort Duty

Tor Dveglammar listened as the captain of his cavalry completed the morning report.

“… over the mountain.  We expect them to report back in two days, maybe three.  There’s been no sign of the enemy other than isolated groups of stragglers since they ran from their lines near Tanahuk three days ago,” the young officer said, pointing to a map tacked to the tent wall, “so their main body must have escaped through one of the passes.”

Tor nodded as he stroked the long braids in his russet beard. His wife had kept him in their tent until she had them perfect, but his habit of pulling on them when he was frustrated had already pulled several whiskers loose.

“Dat makes sense,” he said in a low, tense voice, “Report vat da scouts find as soon as dey get back.”

“Yes, my lord,” the captain said, bowing.  Tor returned the salute, and the cavalryman turned and left the tent.   Tor’s aide, Soren, poked his head in the tent flap.

“Anyting else?” Dveglammar growled.  His army had been sitting on its ass for a week after shattering their foe, and their commander was growing restless.  His aide, who also happened to be his wife’s cousin, was lucky to have a thick skin after the first few days of rest and idleness had worn thin.

“Two things, sir.  There’s the matter of Princess Erica, and we have to deal with that man we caught stealing from the plunder.”

“Oh, ja, dat.  All right, bring in da prinzess.  I still don’t know vat to do vit dat damned half-elf.”

Soren nodded and left his commander behind to brood.  Tor’s eyes flicked to the steel rings of his armor, which rested on a table in the corner with the warhammers that gave him his name.

Dose tings are gettin’ dusty, he thought bitterly, Need to get dem back in da field.

With a sigh, he rose and paced the ground behind his chair.  He was a campaigner, not a general, but when the counter-attack at Tanahuk had killed Baron Karl, the responsibility had fallen to him.  The martial duties, those he had known what to do with.  The rest?

“Bah!” he exclaimed to the empty tent.  He considered whether or not it was worth walking outside to enjoy some of the spring sunshine, but the tent flap pulled back and Princess Erica, daughter and only child of Baron Karl Lowenherz, ruler of the Western Islands, flounced in.  A small girl, wearing a shift and wimple that matched her brown hair, walked behind her, holding the back of the princess’ skirt up from the grass and dirt.  

Erica wore what could charitably be called armor and a helmet over her satin gown.  The silvered iron wings that adorned her head covering, polished to a mirror finish, glinted in the beam of sunlight that followed her through the door.  Her bodice of silver ringlets, sewn onto pale blue leather, accentuated the creamy white undergarment that lay between it and her milky skin.  Overall, when combined with her sharp features and ice blue eyes, she looked every inch of a shield-maiden.

Tor tried hard to not snort when she strutted up to him and stood at attention.  He’d seen her fence with her father’s guard, and she had talent.  But she had taken to wearing the getup around camp ever since her father had summoned her in the fall.  

How did she keep varm in dat ting all tru da vinter? Tor wondered as he smiled at the princess, Dat costume vould be as practical in combat as a vooden sword.

“Prinzess, how are you dis morning?” he asked, bowing deeply and rolling his r’s the way his speech master had taught him.  

“Not well, my lord,” she replied, “Your man there tells me that I am to leave for home tomorrow.”

“Ja, your father told me dat you vas to return to da Islands so dat you could get married in Yune.”

“But I swore to avenge my father’s death!  How can I do that when I’m being sent home to be a blushing bride?”

“Oh, now, your father vould not like to hear such talk.  Prince Yorgen is a nice boy, and he vill make you a good husband!”

“But my oath?”

“Ach, da Tanahuk rebels are finished.  A few more little battles and ve’ll all be on our vay home.  Don’t you vorry about dat.”

Erica considered that for a moment.  She inclined her head toward the chair, and Tor nodded with a smile.  

Taking a seat, she said, “I don’t like it, but if that’s what father wanted, I’ll do it.”

“Gut, gut.  I’ll get someone to escort you to da ship, and you’ll be on your vay.”

“How long is it to Thameshaven by ship, a month?”

“Oh, no, vit the spring vinds, you’ll be getting dere in tree months.”

“Three months?  But I’m supposed to get married in three months!”

“Prinzess, dere’s notting to be done about it.  Da sea is da only safe vay home from here.  Overland takes you troo da lands of our enemies.  Dey’re da ones dat vere paying Tanahuk to rebel, and dey’d love to get der hands on a prinzess.  No, no, you take da ship, and if your vedding is late, den at least it’s not your funeral.”

Erica glared at Tor, narrowing her eyes as her lips grew thinner.  Tor wondered if there might be some magic in the Baron’s bloodline, because he could swear he felt a small dot of blazing heat growing between his eyes.

“How much quicker is it to go by land?” she demanded.

“It’s a month’s yourney if you don’t dawdle, but it’s too dangerous.”

“I could be there in a month, or I can be there in three months?”

“Prinzess, you’d have to bring an army vit you if you went through Pesht, and a bigger army to get through Buda.  Ve only got da one army, and it’s busy right now.”

“Prince Jorgen’s lands lay on the other side of Buda, don’t they?”

“Yes, but vat does dat have to do…”

“I can sneak through to the border, then he can join me in my journey to my father’s lands.  It’s quite simple, really.”

“Simple? Prinzess, you vould have to get past tree borders, cross I don’t know how many rivers, and not let anyvone figure out who you are.”

“But it could be done.  I’d just need someone who knows those lands and how to be a good sneak.”

“Ja, it could be done, and your father’s ghost could come back and beat me about da head and shoulders for letting you do it.  No, it’s too dangerous.  You’ll take da ship.”

Erica regarded the tall Northman again, then shrugged.

“Have it your way,” she said haughtily, “I imagine that you will be busy trying to make up the loss of my troops.”

“Loss of your troops?”

“If I am forced to take a ship home, then I shall take the archers and soldiers my father provided back with me.  A princess needs a proper escort, after all.”

“You vould deprive me of all of da archers and half da foot?”

“Since you only have a few little battles left before our foes are crushed, my people can escort me home.”

“But I, ve….”

“That is, of course, unless you can provide a small guard to escort me overland.”

Tor huffed through his mustache, fluffing it out.   His forehead wrinkled as he considered his options.

“All right,” he said after a moment, “You’ll get sumvun to escort you to da border vit Prince Yorgen’s lands, and your soldiers stay vit da army.”

“Deal.  We leave tomorrow?”


Erica gave Tor a wide smile as she stood.

“So nice when we can reach a compromise, my lord,” she said as she turned to the door.  Her maid followed, averting her eyes from the deadly glare Tor cast into her mistress’ back.

“Soren,” he roared after the tent flap closed again and he counted to thirty slowly, “get in here!”

Today’s Earworm

Pour la Belle France, nous voila!

Toujours En Avant!

Anniversary Gift No-No’s

Our anniversary is coming up, and like most husbands, I struggle to figure out what to get Irish Woman as a present.  While there is a lot of advice on what women want, here’s some friendly advice on what not to get.

  1. Unless your wife is a fitness nut, things like workout clothes, digital fitness assistants, or gym memberships.  Seriously, even if she’s been talking about trying to get into better shape, let these ideas die on the vine.
  2. Steak knives, butcher knives, cleavers, or any other dual use technologies, unless she’s a chef and you’re splurging on her.
  3. Kitchen appliances.  See above note about chefs.
  4. Other home appliances.  Seriously, she may say she doesn’t care, but I have yet to meet the woman who would rather have a new vacuum cleaner or dishwasher than something, you know, thoughtful and romantic.
  5. Self-help books.  See item 1 about fitness-related gifts.  If she wants to improve herself, she’ll do it herself.

Remember, guys, if you know your wife as well as you should, there are always fall-back gifts if you get stuck:  jewelry, guns, books, spa days, whatever.  Don’t step on your schwanz by getting her something on my list, and for heaven’s sake, don’t go for the “I don’t want anything” or “This necessary thing counts as my gift.”  She’s precious to you.  Indulge her when you can.

Today’s Earworm

Book Schedule

I finished the Low Earth Orbit outline of the Via Serica series today.  After taking a deep breath, I realized that I might be able to pull this off, given time and a ton of research*.  I’m going to alternate books in the series with other projects so that I have less of a chance of burning out on the subject.  Which means that this is going to take a while.

Here’s how I want books to work out:

  1. December 2015 / January 2016 – Short story collection.  Several snippets from the rough draft have already been posted.
  2. December 2016 – Second  Via Serica – Working title:  Indus
  3. Summer / Fall 2017 – Second Minivandians book – Working title:  Coming Home
  4. Fall 2018 – Third Via Serica book
  5. Summer/Fall 2019 – Short Story collection
  6. Fall 2020 – Fourth Via Serica book
  7. Summer/Fall 2021 – ????
  8. Fall 2022 – Fifth and final Via Serica book.

Of course, dates, titles, and everything else are subject to the vagaries of family, work, and whatever else gets in the way.  But at least now I know where I want to be when Boo starts middle school.

*Oh, no, please don’t make me listen to lectures and read books about languages, food, cultures, and history.  Whatsoever shall I do?

Quote of the Day

“The difference, I said carefully, “lies in the field of civic virtue. A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not.”
“The exact words of the book,” he said scornfully. “But do you understand it? Do you believe it?”
–Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers


  • My doctor said I needed to cut back on the stress, spicy food, and coffee.  I don’t think she knows me very well.
  • Apparently as I came out from under sedation yesterday, I started singing “I love to go swimming with bow-legged women.”  Irish Woman stopped me before I belted out the refrain.
  • Question – When did it become polite to refer to a presidential candidate by their first name, e.g. “Hillary,” “Carlie”, “Bernie”?  I remember my civics teacher in high school talking about the pearl clutching when President Carter introduced himself as “Jimmy Carter.”  I think it diminishes the candidate when they’re not addressed by their title (Mrs. Fiorina, Secretary Clinton).
  • There are very few things more embarrassing than showing some network settings to a vendor and realizing that what you were looking for was apparently configured by a drunken frat boy.

Educational Television Bites Me In The Ass

This morning, while Irish Woman and Girlie Bear were out, I bundled Boo into the truck and headed off to run a few errands  The last of these was to visit our local nursery/country store/odds and ends place to pick up a couple dozen farm eggs.  On our way in, Boo spied a sign in front of a shelf full of pumpkins that read “Half Off!”

My darling little boy looked up at me with those ice blue eyes, and in the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard, said, “Dad!  Let’s get some and make pumpkin pie like Alton Brown!”  Needless to say, a couple rather large pumpkins went home with us.

I guess that’s better than “Dad!  Let’s get some and make moonshine!” or “Dad! Let’s get a couple and see how much black powder it takes to launch one 100 feet!”

Looks like the limited TV we let him have is still sinking in.  Have to remember that the next time he wants to watch “TV Commercial:  The Movie!”

Today’s Earworm

Wow, what an awesome song, and no Anne Rice vampires in the video!


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