Belmont Club

What Do You Mean We, Kemo Sabe?

It’s a scene straight out of fiction. Refugees from North Africa, packed like sardines in small boats are streaming in droves across the Med to Italy. “According to Italian interior ministry figures given to the Guardian, 59,880 migrants and refugees have landed on the country’s coast this year – almost as many as in the whole of 2011, which holds the record. The situation is unprecedented. Sicily, which has received more than 53,000 of the new arrivals, is bearing the brunt and struggling to cope. And summer – historically the peak time for boat landings – has only just begun.”  This flood is only a trickle compared to what’s coming tomorrow.

To those only familiar with the American southern border crisis the story has eerie similarities. Children are showing up at the border, unaccompanied, with NGOs pressing governments for a solution: to speedily resettle or process these most vulnerable of arrivals.

According to Save the Children, around 5,840 unaccompanied minors have arrived on the Italian coast this year. Not all of them decide to stay in the system. At a soup kitchen opposite Catania station run by the Catholic charity Caritas, manager Valentina Calí explains that among the people who have called on its services have been “many minors who don’t want to be identified. They avoid being fingerprinted so they don’t have to request asylum in Sicily. They’re running away.”

The watchword is “compassion” and besides, everyone knows the West is rich and has lots to give away. But the numbers speak for themselves. These are not refugee streams any more, they are whole populations. The number of people on the move is at a post-World War 2 high. “The number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people has surged to more than 50 million people, the first time since the post-World War II period.”

Once inside Europe, these migrants replicate their homelands, sometimes right down to the quarrels that split their countries in the first place. The New York Times recently covered a case which has riveted France, the beating of a gypsy boy by “migrants” who wanted to teach him a lesson for stealing.  The Roma boy was beaten to a literal pulp, dumped in a supermarket trolley and left as trash to be collected.

PIERREFITTE-SUR-SEINE, France — With its bleak concrete apartment blocks and clutches of bored, jobless young men, the Cité des Poètes housing project defies its idyllic name.

It was here this month in this poor, largely immigrant suburb north of Paris that a 17-year-old Roma boy, Gheorghe, known as Darius, was beaten unconscious by a gang of as many as 20 young men wielding wooden and metal sticks, according to prosecutors. His limp body was dumped in a shopping cart, and his swollen face frozen into a mask of pain.

Darius, a Romanian citizen, remains in a coma in critical condition. Nearly two weeks after the attack, no arrests have been made in a crime whose sheer brutality has shocked France, drawing condemnation from President François Hollande, who called it “beyond words and unjustifiable.”

Prosecutors and witnesses say the attack was carried out in retribution for the young man’s suspected thievery from the nearby housing project. While they have not characterized the attack as racially motivated, prosecutors said it was no ordinary crime, but a veritable lynching on the outskirts of Paris in an increasingly inhospitable climate for minority groups, here and across Europe, particularly for the Roma.

What the NYT doesn’t directly say is who lives in the Cité des Poètes. It gives a clue however by describing it. “About 900 housing projects were built from the 1970s to the 1990s with the aim of housing working-class and immigrant populations, many from north and sub-Saharan Africa.” But the Guardian, in another article, is more specific.

In the Seine-Saint-Denis department, known as “the 93” after its postcode, a collection of suburban communes riddled with unemployment and rundown tower blocks that make them a powder-keg for rioting and violence, the estate is home to the poorest of the poor. Here, where 35% exist on or below the poverty line, unemployment hovers around 33%, and one-third of the population was born outside France, violence is a fact of life and there is a feeling that Darius got what he deserved.

Thus the beating is cast as a product of competition between people who Western society has left with nothing.  But maybe it’s just a beating, no better than the necklacing, decapitation, mutilation, stoning or other types of chastisements customarily inflicted on thieves.  The Cité des Poètes as the Camp of the Saints.

The migrants may have left their physical homelands but they often take the boat — or airplane — the other way — to Libya, Nigeria, Chad, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, or Afghanistan. The Guardian describes Reyaad Khan, “one of the British men featured in an extremist recruitment video in Syria was captured on film four years ago” He wants to become a British prime minister but is currently with ISIS.

In the interview, exclusively obtained by the Guardian, Reyaad Khan, now 20, argued the government wasted resources on “illegal wars” and said more money ought to be spent on young people to help prevent them being led down the “wrong path”.

He described the challenges of avoiding criminality in the Cardiff neighbourhood where he grew up, claiming there were fewer chances for younger people to succeed. He said teenagers from minority ethnic backgrounds suffered stereotyping.

Asked if the world was a good place, he smiled before replying: “The world can be a lovely place but you’ve just got to get rid of the evil. If everyone could choose the good, the evil will go away.”

Getting rid of evil apparently means — if ISIS is the model — the death of infidels and apostate Muslims. Khan doesn’t want to make the Homs like Cardiff. He wants to make Cardiff like Homs.  The danger of course is obvious, and thankfully the Guardian identifies it straight off: beware the redneck American.

Quoting the Southern Poverty Law Center it writes that “the US is facing a surge in anti-government extremist groups and armed militias, driven by deepening hostility on the right to Barack Obama, anger over the economy, and the increasing propagation of conspiracy theories by parts of the mass media such as Fox News.”  In their world the problem isn’t Reyaad Khan but those who think Reyaad Khan to be a problem. 

Robert Kaplan in Forbes notes that even in Europe the dreaded rednecks are appearing in great numbers.  “It is undeniable that the right wing is ascendant in Europe. He cites the obvious reasons.

What is behind this phenomenon?

Years and decades of immigration from Muslim North African countries and other parts of the developing world have seemingly threatened previously cohesive and mono-ethnic societies in Europe. Then there is the half-decadelong economic crisis within the European Union that has led to low or negative growth and indecently high levels of unemployment. And that, in turn, has led to very unpopular austerity measures. The combination of these social and economic stresses has gone a long way to delegitimize the European establishment so that someone like Putin, who challenges that establishment and what it stands for, immediately becomes a pole of attraction.

This narrative is a variation of the ‘natives are jealous’ story. It ascribes tensions to the inability of people to see those “unlike themselves” as equals and full of resentment at new arrivals who are earning wages better than their own.  To say otherwise is blasphemy. “In 2001 the Southern Poverty Law Center reported [that any perception that mass migration was invasion was a trope] “widely revered by American white supremacists and is a sort of anti-immigration analog to The Turner Diaries.”

James V. DeLong, believes this interpretation misses the point because it looks the wrong way.  Many voters have concluded the Alien Nation is in Brussels or Washington DC. The real invaders aren’t headquartered in Mexico, they’re roosting in K Street.

He notes that although Eric Cantor’s the recent upset primary loss was partly caused by the “fear of immigration”, more fundamentally it was caused by the unbridgeable “V & C” [value and concerns] gap between the electorate and the Republican elite.  He argues that somehow people have gotten the idea that the Washington elite is a different race — more different from than even actual foreigners  — and have reacted accordingly.

The V&C appeal, DeLong, believes, is a mug’s game. Nobody really means it, although the Democrats do better ‘even in disasters’ at pretending to care because they are so much better at lying. While the “mothers’s milk” of Democratic politics is money, they’ve raised the art of accepting gratuities to the level of moral courage. They’re so good at it you almost want to be crooked.

The Republicans have been trying to package their own fake V&C platform, but with less success, either because their electorate is smarter or they are inferior actors.  So Cantor couldn’t convince the Base he was really on their side and lost.

Some money comes from those ideologically committed to this conservative prayer book, but this group is not large enough to match the Democratic combination of billionaires, unions, greens, and public employees, nor is it as gullible as the business world in its willingness to shovel money to the consultant class (aka, “The Establishment”).

Both the establishment Democrats and Republicans are essentially playing the same game of selling out everything that isn’t nailed down for a buck. And because there is bipartisan consensus on this matter, whoever doesn’t agree with this sellout game is an “extremist”. But DeLong observes that this process has reached its limits because things have actually become bad. The unlimited influx of migrants into Southern Europe will eventually produce a “basta” point when voters simply refuse to go any further.  DeLong writes:

The “you must be reasonable” game has limits. Eventually, any repeated loser in the game decides to wreck things, perhaps out of angry spite, perhaps out of calculation that no progress can be made without upsetting the table and starting a new game. The establishment should recognize that it could blow the 2014 elections by being so obviously recalcitrant that the Tea Party stays home.

One can argue that, from the Tea Party point of view (there is no official view, so mine is as good as any), if the establishment refuses to address the government-by-cronyism issue, then upsetting the table is the right move. The fundamental problem is that hydra-headed cronyism is eating the country alive: The green energy boondoggles, which waste billions of dollars and cause the VA to spend money on solar panels while veterans die on waiting lists; turning energy policy over to an EPA captured by a bootleggers-and-Baptists coalition of radical enviros and corporate looters; the 2,280 federal programs of domestic assistance, each defended by an iron alliance of beneficiaries, bureaucrats, congressional committees, and lobbyists; and an Internal Revenue Service that turns itself into both a censor of political speech and a slush fund for the politically well-connected.

What could push things past the tipping point are actions from left field. The reason why al-Qaeda is so dangerous to Obama is that it is a Frankenstein monster, something his buddies in the Gulf can no longer control. Recently US intelligence has warned of a “car bomb blitz” being planned by al-Qaeda related groups. The overture is already being played in Nigeria, Lebanon and Egypt. It will soon descend in full orchestral force on Baghdad. This will tend to undermine the Obama claim that bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is Alive. When the Blitz hits Italy, Spain, France, Britain and America — well you can see the difficulty.

Former vice president Dick Cheney predicts a mega-September 11 in the works.

‘I think there will be another attack and the next time I think it’s likely to be far deadlier than the last one. You can just imagine what would happen if somebody could smuggle a nuclear device, put it in a shipping container, and drive it down the beltway outside Washington D.C.’

One can almost hear the administration’s apologists sniggering: ‘old Cheney has finally lost it.’ But then they laughed at the prospects of al-Qaeda in Iraq; they thought the guys burning their consulate in Benghazi were inspired by a video; and some people still remember how Obama treated Putin like a doorman before Ukraine. If Cheney makes it to 2016 he might say on Drudge: who’s laughing now?

They may not be interested in 9/11 but 9/11 is interested in them. And when that happens, then DeLong’s calculus may hit full force. People will stop being reasonable. James DeLong notes you can’t understand Obama’s policy in terms of reason anyway. That being the case it will not be long before opposition plays out in Game Theory terms only.  Once people see the game is rigged, how long before someone blows out the lights?

Health expert John Goodman called Obamacare “a Rube Goldberg nightmare,” written “to appease every single Democratic constituency and every major special interest group.”  The process was like “going around a table asking each group what is the one thing they must have in order to support the legislation — the insurance companies, the drug companies, the hospitals, the labor unions, AMA, AARP, etc., [with] no one making sure that all the separate demands fit together in a sensible way.”

Goodman’s accurate insight renders futile any analysis of Obamacare in terms of its merits as public policy. It was not drafted with merit in view, and any appeal to good government is irrelevant to the debate….

Goodman’s point is actually a general law. Every area of contemporary public policy is a Rube Goldberg nightmare created by cobbling together the demands of various interests, regardless of efficacy or consistency. Housing policy and financial regulation, as noted above. The Keystone pipeline is best analyzed as a multi-player game involving labor unions, rich enviros, and Warren Buffett’s railroads, with the outcome depending not on actual energy policy but on who wins the favor of the king. The stimulus money went mostly to hire more government workers.

Past a certain point scams start being about power. Maybe Reyaad Khan understood how it worked after all. The way to recognition is not to argue with the British Labor party, but making them fear you. And his stint in ISIS can only enhance his resume. The dream of multiculturalism may actually be fulfilled not by Westernizing the world but by de-Westernizing the West.

And speaking of the West, we can’t end this post without a tribute to the late Eli Wallach. “Tuco” escaped the Grim Reaper till the age 98. Tuco used to say that through history there have always been two kinds of people.

The world is divided into two kinds of people, those who have friends and those who are lonely like poor Tuco. There are two kinds of spurs, my friend. Those that come in by the door, [crosses himself] those that come in by the window. There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend. Those who have a rope around their neck and those who have the job of doing the cutting.

And the final word of advice from Tuco’s rival the Man With No Name was for those who think the political establishment is their friend. “You see in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.” There’s a lesson in there somewhere and the establishment probably already knows what it is.

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Recent items of interest by Belmont readers based on Amazon click-throughs.

The Aviator
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality
The School of Hard Knocks: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces
Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

The Crouching Beast: A United States Army Lieutenant’s Account of the Battle for Hamburger Hill, May 1969
Nokia Lumia 1320 Black Factory

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The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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