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Belmont Club

The World Gets Bigger

July 27th, 2014 - 5:44 pm

We are accustomed to thinking of progress as continuous. But there have been other periods of globalization before ours — and somehow the world broke apart again. During the Roman empire manufacturers traded throughout its length and breadth . For example, goods from Britain were sold in the Mediterranean. The empire’s merchants traded with China over the Silk Road and with the subcontinent via the Indian ocean.  It was a world without passports, a place in which St. Paul could say civis Romanus sum and claim protection.

When Roman order collapsed the world suddenly got bigger. Journeys of a week became detours of a month until they finally stopped altogether. “This breakdown was often fast and dramatic as it became unsafe to travel or carry goods over any distance; there was a consequent collapse in trade and manufacture for export. Major industries that depended on trade, such as large-scale pottery manufacture, vanished almost overnight in places like Britain. Tintagel in Cornwall, as well as several other centres, managed to obtain supplies of Mediterranean luxury goods well into the sixth century, but then lost their trading links. Administrative, educational and military infrastructure quickly vanished, and the loss of the established cursus honorum led to the collapse of the schools and to a rise of illiteracy even among the leadership.”

It could never happen again. Or could it? Although the world is far from the Dark Ages, to a modest degree, yet quite distinctly, the process of globalization has retreated for the first time perhaps since the Second World War. The New Republic looks at the places where the FAA NOTAMs place restrictions on commercial flights operated by U.S. carriers.

No Fly Zone

No Fly Zone

For a while that map even included Israel because Hamas threatened to bombard it. It may include Israel again, given the unfinished business with Hamas. But there’s also unfinished business with ISIS, ISIL, al-Shabab, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and what have you. And it’s starting to put a crimp on things. Indeed the Daily Mail says aviation experts believe that whole air corridors may soon be closed or significantly re-routed as the “tranquility” areas of the world are expanded, both geographically and in terms of the increasing capability of anti-air weapons available to ‘militants’.

Harder to Fly

Harder to Fly

But it isn’t just missiles. It isn’t just underwear bombs and implanted explosives. The other challenge of globalization is the spread of infectious disease. Millions of people are now moving by air or road. They bring whatever health problems they have with them.  The ultimate carry-on bomb may be a virus.

One of the unappreciated aspects challenges of the breakdown on the US southern border is that “ICE isn’t screening for infectious diseases, instead relying on self-reporting. Immigrants are not detained for further health screening, ‘unless they tell us they’re sick,’ according to the ICE agent.”

The bad news is that antibiotic-resistant TB is probably getting through.  The good news is it isn’t ebola. Africa is now in the throes of the worst outbreak of that disease in history. It is killing the doctors. It has spread by air travel to the mega-city of Lagos. Nobody knows where it stops because it is traveling along the same roads, railroads and airliners that are the highways of globalization.

There is no cure for ebola. The only defense of the authorities is enforcing draconian quarantine and the ruthless disposal of patient cadavers. Unfortunately most African governments are really nothing but corrupt cabals of bureaucrats. And many Africans see Ebola in witch-disease terms and either escape from the ‘government hospital’ —  unpleasant in the best of times — and forcibly retrieve their relatives, steal the dead from the morgue for traditional burial and in one case attacked the Medicins Sans Frontieres hospital because they suspected the medicos were up to mumbo-jumbo or something of that nature.

What happens when ebola meets traditional Africa? Epidemic.

By tradition, only women were allowed to touch or wash her dead body, so the majority of the next cases were also women.

Sierra Leone officials have since banned traditional funerals and the bodies of Ebola victims must now be buried by health workers clad in green protective suits and face masks.

Schools in the Kenema area are closed and travel restricted.

At the Moala checkpoint on the road to Liberia, masked health workers take the temperature of all travelers to monitor for anyone who might be carrying a fever.

But many still put faith in traditional methods.

At the same Moala checkpoint, police and soldiers tied herbal rope bracelets around travellers’ wrists, telling them a local traditional healer had been told in a dream that doing so could ward off Ebola…

Terrified by such reports, Isata Momoh, who came down with symptoms of the disease, initially fled the ambulance sent to take her to the hospital. “When I thought I had the sickness I ran away into the bushes and hid,” she told Reuters.

One of the more interesting compounds of terrorism, ignorance and disease is the Bokoh Haram. They don’t believe in quarantine, being no respecter of borders, orders or law. They don’t believe in Western knowledge either. Once ebola hitches a ride with the Boko Haram who can say what will happen?

Some Africans believe the solution is to drive away the doctors. The New York Times reports:

“We don’t want any visitors,” said their leader, Faya Iroundouno, 17, president of Kolo Bengou’s youth league. … The others nodded in agreement and fiddled with their slingshots. Singling out the international aid group Doctors Without Borders, Mr. Iroundouno continued, “Wherever those people have passed, the communities have been hit by illness.” … On Friday alone, health authorities in Guinea confirmed 14 new cases of the disease….

Villagers flee at the sight of a Red Cross truck. When a Westerner passes, villagers cry out, “Ebola, Ebola!” and run away….

Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others.

Today, as we watch crowds in Paris shout “Hamas, Hamas!” and multitudes on the southern border crying “Obama, Obama!” the West can only be grateful that its body politic is so much better educated than the Africans.

Globalization has had a good run.  But it’s hitting some speed bumps. Let’s hope air travel recovers. Of course aircraft have others uses besides travel.

Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894
Level Zero Heroes: The Story of U.S. Marine Special Operations in Bala Murghab, Afghanistan
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The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride
Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness
War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945
Ray-Ban RB2132 New Wayfarer Sunglasses

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Top Rated Comments   
Commerce at a distance yields many benefits. Mutual understanding and peace are not among them. In 1914 the two greatest trading partners in the world were the British and German empires.

Neptun can add that well regulated borders and immigration proceedings reward lawful immigrants particularly and encourage a law abiding society in general. Among many other benefits such a society can operate with a light touch from the government and a small footprint from the police. Among the other sophisticated ideas that have been imported to America, to go along with exotic diseases, are continental attitudes towards legal proceedings and taxation. Historically Americans were remarkably honest. Criminals existed and they often stood out, making their apprehension easier. After six years of Holder and Turbo Timmy and rule by the Bureau of Missing Emails I expect people to routinely lie to authorities and report only what cannot be concealed. We are all Italians now.

We can hope that the plagues will consume Boko Haram and the other enemies of civilization sooner and to a greater extent than they will most of the West. If law and public health do collapse in the poorest areas of NYC with the largest immigrant populations then lines will be drawn. Peculiarly the middle class areas of West or South Brooklyn and Western or Central Queens will find many of their escape routes blocked. My faith in Mayor de Blasio to manage such a crisis is less than robust.

The argument that modern naval forces are so good that we don't need more of them can be dispensed with by pointing at the LCS. We need 15 CVNs so we can have 5 CVBGs deployed at all times, with the ability to surge 3 more on demand. We need a similar number of ready marine battalions forward deployed with organic air support. Since they have a less demanding overhaul and refueling schedule than the CVNs do we could make do with only 10 ARGs build around LHDs. They need gun fire support and we lack it since the BBs were retired. When the rail guns are deployed we shall have a low cost shore bombardment capability with endurance.

It surprises me that the Israelis have not developed a ground based rail gun for counter-battery. That would be cheaper faster and more precise than using attack aircraft as flying artillery.

I am reminded of the point in the Foundation books when the affected emissary from the Empire tells the isolated people of Foundation as they are being abandoned that the warlords are not really independent, or the Emperor "would not tweet with them."

The barbarians took over our schools fifty years ago. The decline in standards and competency has cascaded down. The elitists thought that they would stand above all that with their superior status only enhanced by the increasing illiteracy of the proles. They were fools. No special shield, not even attendance in a private school or prestige university, can ward of their children from the atmosphere of ignorance and vulgarity and illiteracy. Long ago I learned to read by following my father's finger as we read Scotty Reston together in The Times. Now, aside from my politics making me reluctant to pick up the fishwrap, I doubt that the writers and editors of today could be considered fit to shine Mr Reston's shoes.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Those who are perceptive are preparing for the day when goods have to come from local areas, and not from far away. It is not only the condition of the roads, or the safety of the airways, or freedom of the sea lanes that determine if we get goods from farther away than can be hauled by shank's mare.

Consider that most goods are financed directly or indirectly by various forms of long term or short term credit, and sometimes a combination. If there is a glitch in the credit system, goods do not move, nor are they made. The actual movement is dependent on the availability of fuels, spare parts, and expertise that is a complex net that can be taken out suddenly. Remember, this is that age of the destruction of design margin.

The availability of goods in the stores is a function of "just-in-time" scheduling. Despite it being known for use in modern manufacturing processes; it was actually invented for the modern food business, and by extension modern mass retail sales. Behind your local Mega-Mart grocery store there is a line of trucks, and warehouses, and inventories, and computers allowing the shelves to be full after a busy day of sales. The average urban area has a THREE DAY supply of food in the stores and warehouses. Absent that invisible and delicately balanced line of trucks, etc. running to the warehouses, things get hungry out. And in areas like LA, NYC, and Chicago, a week's interruption will put long pork on the menu. Although one could make the argument that it is already there in certain neighborhoods.

I have noted something .... interesting .... locally here in the mountains of Colorado. We have a Walmart in my small city. Up until two years ago, shelves were restocked without fail overnight. Two years ago, gaps started appearing in the shelves, and remaining for longer and longer periods. Talking off the record with people who worked there, at first it was a matter of making sure that the trucks were absolutely full before running the routes due to the increasing costs of fuel. Now, items are being ordered by the store repeatedly, but not arriving. The suspicion is that even a chain the size of Walmart is having difficulty acquiring supplies to restock. They are financially healthy, but their suppliers, or their suppliers' suppliers are having financial or inventory difficulties. Which, considering that we are in our 7th "Recovery Summer" with the last quarterly GDP falling 2.9% which is blamed by the government on the anomalous appearance of something called "winter" coming out of Canada [who somehow managed to grow their GDP 2.4% in the same time]; may not be an unreasonable conjecture.

The entire edifice of trade and commerce can be destroyed by the tiniest events far removed from where the effects are felt. And the world changes scales as the Gods of the Copybook Headings balance accounts.

Subotai Bahadur
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Dark Ages
No, nobody knew that it was dark.
The sun shone everywhere; it warmed
the roads that led to the same cities as before;
bridges here and there remained, in fact,
the Roman aqueducts gushed water. Still,
the daily flow grew more uncertain as
those arches fell. Roads cracked. Old temples
were demolished and recycled. They
supplied fresh marble, copper, lead. Perhaps
the formula for concrete had been lost.
In certain parts—in ports of affluence
and influence—the commerce carried on:
silk never looked so red, and common
spices such as cinnamon and black pepper
fetched princely prices, and life—well,
life was good. Life had to be good.
Or good enough. The sun glittered across
the busy harbors, when a day beyond
our understanding dawned: another ship
rose on the horizon, packed with rats.

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31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (76)
All Comments   (76)
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'“ICE isn’t screening for infectious diseases, instead relying on self-reporting.'

"Inside sources believe that Iranian scientists have already developed some “gems,” and are in the planning stages of possible ways to institute their use. Bio-warfare is definitely a part of Iran’s future plans."
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd rather have Ebola coming in that MDR-TB. You have to work to catch Ebola, but you can catch TB from breathing. Both kill, Ebola a lot faster.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
June 15, 2012 - President Obama Signs Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to Allow Some Undocumented Immigrants Who Came to the United States as Children to Stay in the Country

Feb. 16, 2000 - AFL-CIO Labor Union Supports Amnesty for Immigrants in the United States Illegally

1840s - Naturalizations of Germans and Irish Are Expedited and Offered Free of Charge During Election Time

"The buying of votes in local elections was easy where large groups of immigrants could be mobilized by their leaders to march to the polls... naturalization papers could be obtained before election, free of charge and without too many questions asked, from friendly judges. In the 1840's, it was the general practice to advertise in the German papers of New York just before Election Day that all Germans wishing to be naturalized should apply to the German committee of Tammany Hall, where they would receive their citizenship papers gratis. Irish immigrants landing in the morning might be voters by nightfall."

Historical Timeline
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
1964 - Bracero Program Ends; Undocumented Laborers Continue to Arrive from Mexico

"In 1964, Washington cancelled [the Bracero] program unilaterally, and a new stage emerged. The Mexican government insisted on renewing the program. The US government was not interested because migrant laborers continued to arrive without papers and outside of negotiated agreements. Thus began the era of undocumented migration by 'irregular' migrants who worked temporarily under the threat of deportation.... The Mexican side was a 'no-man's land' where criminals and human traffickers operated freely... In this phase, laissez-faire attitudes and policies reigned, though both governments would pay the costs 20 years later."

Oct. 5, 1909 - The Melting Pot Play Opens on Broadway; Its Title Becomes a Metaphor for the United States

1882 - Immigration Exclusion Act Prohibits Immigration of Criminals, Poor, and Mentally Ill

1868 - 20,000 to 30,000 Expedited Naturalizations before Elections in New York City
William M. Tweed, ca. 1868.

Feb. 1862 - President Lincoln Acts to Prohibit the "Coolie Trade"

1808 - Foreign Slave Trade Becomes Illegal; 50,000 Slaves Become First "Illegal Aliens" in the US
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment

I don't think Congress has very long to start getting control of the situation. Very likely by the time they get back from vacation it'll be an emergency -- perhaps the first step of the next leg of this thing?
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Unfortunately most African governments are really nothing but corrupt cabals of bureaucrats."

There too?
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The Border is Secure"

We spend your money on it, that's proof enough.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Alas, we have Hamas in the White House. Nor does this quite overstate the matter because they both share the same anti western anti Israeli worldview.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
The next logical step is for groups of states to form coalitions to protect themselves and their people. The Southwestern states may have to form such a union to repell the invaders from below since the Federal Government decided to allow it. When the Federal Government refuses to follow their Constitutionally mandated responsibility to protect its citizens, it becomes the responsibility at the State level. Lincoln preserved the union, Obama may tear it all apart. Obama is pissing on the legacy of the man who made his presidency possible. Ungrateful wretch.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's pretty darn simple. A country that cannot, or does not, control its borders, is not a country at all.

I think that's the larger one-world goal the proglodytes are shooting for, because I know that the pen-pusher-in-chief and law-makers know what a borderless frontier means for a sovereign nation.

They teach that crap in commie elementary school.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
They will protect it when they own it lock, stock and barrel.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Illegal immigration will be the pet cause of every progressive until their nanny, housekeeper or yard man pass along the antibiotic resistant strain of TB. Then they will be the most vocal in blaiming any and everyone when their children start dying. You reap what you sow, even when you hire out the reaping.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
TB is one thing, Ebola another. Reports that there is a hospital lockdown in Pisa, Italy.....mind you, the real damage happens in Cairo, New Delhi, Bagdad etc
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks wretchard for, yet again, another incisive and insightful exposition of several of the ongoing and impending disasters which indicate the accelerating disintegration of civilization. As depressing, or more to the point, horrifying as the subjects of these BC discussions are, it is absolutely necessary that we face reality and the ugly truth if we are to survive.

The confluence of pandemic plague, economic collapse, military sabotage and resultant weakness, and intellectual, spiritual, academic, and scientific degeneration is rapidly metastasizing to the point of no return (if not already past it). In reading your description of the ebola threat I was reminded of the parallels to the Plague of Justinian - - in the Sixth Century A.D. and how it altered the course of history. Its spread and resulting depopulation ( 50 to 100 million dead) of much of the Mediterranean area including both the Byzantine and former Western Roman areas, as well as the Persian/Sassanid Empire was so devastating economically and militarily that it greatly facilitated the Muslim conquests in the following decades.

Contributions by other commenters here are equally informative on these subjects. Of particular importance are the expositions of the ongoing degradation of the essential "division of labor", the interconnected chain of production and supply without which modern civilization is impossible, from the highest technology to the simplest (e.g. - I, Pencil - ).

I am grateful to you and others here for providing this online place and community which not only offers a wealth of factual information but also the needed insights and analyses necessary to make sense of our increasingly surreal reality. However dire that reality may be, Patrick Henry had it right in the too little-mentioned conclusion to his famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech when he said "I know not what course others may choose, but as for me, I would know the truth, and prepare for it".
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31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
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