»  Taki's Magazine

May 19th, 2011

  Yemen, Ye Gods

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Do you know anything about Yemen? No, me neither. Hang on, let me do a little checking at the CIA World Factbook.

Here we go. Size: a tad bigger than Spain. Mostly desert, only 2.9 percent arable land. Population: 24 million plus, squinched in between Taiwan and North Korea in the world rankings. Total fertility rate: 4.63, ranked 30th out of 223 nations, up there with Togo, Nigeria and Gabon. Life expectancy at birth: 63.7, against an overall world average of 67.1. Median age 18 years (the U.S.A.'s is 37.) GDP per capita: $2,600, ranked 172, better than Moldova and Laos but below Djibouti and Nicaragua. OK, getting a rough picture here.

Now I see that fertility rate, I remember a factlet about Yemen that shows up in every second general-readership article on demography: In 1950 there were 24 Russians for every Yemeni (103m versus 4.3m); by 2050 Yemen will have more people than Russia. The calculation was done by demographer Paul Demeny in 2003. It's here, complete with some striking diagrams.

Culture-wise, Yemen is Arab and Muslim, with the corresponding gangster-kleptocracy type of government and a fair complement of glittery-eyed fundamentalist Islamic nutjobs. Vanhanen gives mean national IQ as 85, a full standard deviation below the white-European mean: although since, as everyone knows, IQ is a completely meaningless measure of nothing whatsoever, we should ignore that.

[In connection with which, though off at a tangent from the main topic here, I got the following curious email from a long-time reader the other day:

Mr Derbyshire:  Saw this today in the Daily Caller: "African Americans have the highest unemployment rate of any ethnic group in America, and the disparity is raising eyebrows. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the black unemployment rate hovers at 16.1 percent — compared with 8 percent among whites, 11.8 percent among Hispanics, and 6.4 percent among Asians."

I just marveled at those numbers, being a numbers guy. They are very nearly perfectly negatively correlated to mean group IQ. In fact, I wrote a simple linear equation that relates the two. It's spooky.

IQ = 115 - ( 1.88 x UR ) where UR is the unemployment rate as a percentage

6.4% UR ⇒ 103 IQ — asian
8% UR ⇒ 100 IQ — white
11.8% UR ⇒ 93 IQ — hispanic
16.1% UR ⇒ 85 IQ — black

These are almost exactly the consensus averages for group mean IQs. Stunning. Feel free to claim it as your own.

Why on earth would I want to claim such a preposterous "result" as my own? Not only is IQ utterly meaningless, but there is no such thing as race. Everyone knows that. I have passed the name of my e-correspondent to the FBI. Eric Holder's people will soon have him safely in custody, never fear!]

OK, Yemen. Why am I suddenly interested in Yemen? Because of Mr Rageh Almurisi, that's why.

Mr Almurisi, 28 years old, is a citizen of Yemen. He came to this country in January 2010 on an immigrant visa, presumably under the family-reunification deal. At any rate, he has a brother in New York and extended family (uncles, cousins) in California. Mr Almurisi left his wife and children in Yemen, intending to send money for their support once he had a job.

After failing to find work in California, Mr Almurisi went to seek help from his brother in New York. Fortunately for him the Big Apple has been suffering from a dire shortage of cab drivers and convenience store help — jobs Americans won't do. At last Mr Almurisi had paid employment and was able to send money back to his wife.

Then, for reasons unknown, he snapped. With no luggage and only $47 in cash on him, Mr Almurisi boarded a flight back to San Francisco, traveling on a one-way ticket, purchased with cash. Half an hour from landing he left his seat and strode down the aisle towards the cockpit, shouting "Allahu akbar!" (God is great.) Finding the door to the cockpit locked, as is normal nowadays, he assaulted it with his shoulder, still yelling praises of his deity. This, be it noted, was May 8, just one week after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Since 9/11 we have all known what to do in these circumstances: go for the guy and hit him with anything that comes to hand. Passengers and flight attendants quickly subdued Mr Almurisi. Federal officers took him off the plane at San Francisco and hustled him off to the bridewell, where he has been ever since. A court-ordered medical report says that Mr Almurisi has been suffering from auditory and optical hallucinations for the past several weeks.

Here's the punch line, from a weekend news report in the Bay area Times-Herald on Mr Almurisi's latest bail hearing:

Nine relatives, including cousins and an uncle, attended the hearing. Outside of court, Almurisi's uncle, Jamal Almoraissi of Vallejo, said, "They have nothing on him. Look at the evidence," but declined to make any further comments.

I'm going to concede a great deal here. I concede that Yemen's 24 million people must certainly, just on statistical grounds, include many persons of the highest intellect and integrity, and many more who maintain very acceptable standards of decency and morality. I concede that anyone might lose his marbles at any time, with higher incidences of this misfortune among people living in a strange country under the stress of needing to send money to dependents back home. I concede that there are all sorts of valid reasons why a young man of Middle Eastern appearance might make cash purchase of a one-way plane ticket across country and board without luggage (perhaps while the TSA staff were busy frisking some suspicious-looking 6-year-old). I concede that there may be sound arguments for family-reunification immigrant visas being available to relatives other than spouses and dependent children. (I have never heard such arguments, but I concede they may be out there.) I concede that while I personally don't have nine uncles and cousins willing to show up at my bail hearing, others might be more blessed. I concede that such relatives have a right, nay a duty, to be supportive of the accused, and skeptical of the authorities.

But here's the thing. Given that, as the news reports tell us, Yemen is a disorderly place with a strong al Qaeda presence, and that this has been so for some years, why are we taking in Yemenis for permanent settlement? Wouldn't our lives be easier, less fraught, and safer if we didn't? Sure, Yemenis who want to come live here would be inconvenienced and disgruntled, but what's that to us? Why does their desire to live in the U.S.A. outweigh our desire for a tad less danger and trauma in our lives?

Why are we admitting for settlement anyone at all from disorderly Muslim nations? It would be perfectly easy not to do so: just make a list of no-visa nations and post it on the State Department website. If we were criticized for such a thing, why would we care? This is our country. We can let in whom we please. What exactly is the argument against national-origin immigration rules?

Our government has an obligation to be scrupulously fair towards all citizens, but where is the obligation to be fair to all foreign nations, placid Iceland and tumultuous Yemen alike?

I know the answers, of course. I also know what packing materials the answers travel in: guilt, sentimentality, noblesse oblige, and wishful thinking. I just wish it wasn't so.