Something about the #refugee “problem” stinks

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while. It’s about the refugees flooding Europe. Millions, we’re told. I don’t buy it.

I started writing this after hearing about the Jugend Rettet Iuventa rescuing 400 people (including seven pregnant women) from drowning in the Mediterranean. It’s important that you see where I’m going with this, so I’ll quote from The Maritime Executive’s Migrant Rescue Vessels Overwhelmed, Send Mayday:

The Iuventa, Jugend Rettet ship, had 400 [some other newspapers said 600 –Kaz] rescued migrants on board, including seven pregnant women, and was concerned that many might lose their life as weather conditions worsened. The Sea-Eye had 120 people on board including 10 casualties.
Mélanie G?odkiewicz, Advisor at Human Rights at Sea, said that on Monday those rescued by Iuventa were transferred to the VOS Hestia, an NGO-led vessel from Save the Children, in the lee of the tanker Stemnitsa, responding at the scene. Those on board are being taken to Malta.
The migrants on board the Sea-Eye were rescued by two vessels from the Italian Coastguard and are being taken to Italy.

So the facts are these:

  1. The Iuventa picked up 400 people. Or 600 people.
  2. The weather began to worsen.
  3. The Iuventa, afraid of the worsening weather conditions, called a Mayday.
  4. A bigger ship came along and all 400 (or 600) people were rescued.

Fine. What kind of ship is the Iuventa? According to the parent organisation, Jugend Rettet:

Foto: -/IUVENTA Jugend Rettet e.V./dpa +++(c) dpa – Bildfunk+++

The ship selected to become Jugend Rettet’s active contribution to Maritime Search and Rescue in the Central Mediterranean Sea was acquired in May 2016, converted and refitted by the tremendous effort of many volunteers for her new task and christened IUVENTA.
Originally the 33m long IUVENTA was designed as a fishing vessel for the rough and frequently hostile conditions of the North Sea. Redundant features can be found throughout the ship such as two auxiliary engines and design elements of the main engine that ensure continuous operation even in the roughest conditions.
The once large deck spaces for working fishing gear was decluttered in the conversion to allow the accommodation of up to 100 rescued persons. Tarpaulins can be arranged to either protect the deck space from the sun or provide shelter from wind and rain.
In normal rescue operations the crew complement is between 11-13 persons.

Did you notice that? Let me repeat it:

The once large deck spaces for working fishing gear was decluttered in the conversion to allow the accommodation of up to 100 rescued persons.

“[U]p to 100” people. Not 400. And certainly not 600. One hundred. Maximum. So how did those other hundreds–and seven pregnant women–fit onboard? Did they hang on the sides? Waterski at the back? And you’ll note that the Iuventa didn’t broadcast a Mayday because it was overloaded. It lifted all those hundreds of people safely onto its Tardis-like deck and the Mayday was only a precautionary measure due to worsening weather conditions.

This picture from the news item is of refugees being moved from a smaller blue boat to a larger ship, but there’s conveniently no attibution. The photo could have been taken three or four years ago in a different part of the world completely and we’d never know the difference. In fact, if you compare the pictures of this boat with the one from the Jugend Rettet site, you’ll notice they are two different vessels! Busted!

France

Let’s go next to Paris. Here’s a short report from PressTV:

The refugee crisis is causing increasing violence and misery across the country, we’re told. Calais, the worst camp in France, has 10,000 people. Really? The worst camp in entire France has only ten thousand inhabitants?

At the 0:48 mark, we’re told that, “In this north Paris neighbourhood, refugees line the streets for nearly half a kilometre.” Half a kilometre is five hundred metres. What do you think the refugee density of that five hundred metres is? Let’s say we allocate one person per metre, taking into account the trees, rubbish bins, bus stops, benches, and so on. Refugees line both sides of the wide pavement, so…one thousand refugees? One thousand people is an overwhelming crisis? If you watch the entire video, you’ll see a number much much lower than that. Maybe a few hundred. Is Europe really panicking over a few hundred people in the north of Paris (population 2+ million)?

If you do some more research on these refugees in the northern suburbs of Paris, you’ll read that the government is building a refugee centre that can house only four hundred people. It sounds ridiculous, callous and is meant to highlight the plight of the poor refugees…unless the government knows something we don’t. Take over a stadium–or disused factory (there must be a few of them around)–and juryrig cubicles and you’ll soon notice if a factory that could house, say, 1,000 people isn’t bursting at the seams. But build something deliberately small and suddenly you can talk about its inadequacy and weep over frozen children until the cows come home.

Next, we’re off to Germany.

Germany

Refugee Surge in Germany Puts Pressure on Small Towns” says The Wall Street Journal – Sumte (pop 114) is getting 80 refugees.

German town of 100 must take 1,000 Syrian migrants” says WND, but it’s Sumte again.

German Village of 102 Braces for 750 Asylum Seekers” comes from The New York Times…but it’s our old friend Sumte yet again.

German town struggles with influx of refugees” says CNN, where the 1,100 people of Friedland now has “almost 4,000” refugees. The problem? Friedland has a population of 12,500 and is actually a consolidation of Friedland (which is where the 1,100 figure must have come from), Klein Schneen, Lichtenhagen, and Reiffenhausen. (Wikipedia)

Refugee fight in Germany” is a YouTube video from TomoNews US and was allegedly filmed in…Friedland.

Refugee crisis: Germany creaks under strain of open door policy” is from The Guardian, but the paper plays it smart: no named towns, no solid figures:

Reports of a youth community project having to move out to make way for an asylum seeker shelter, or a woman living in local authority housing being forced to downsize so that her flat could be used by refugees are regularly making the headlines and stoking resentment.

Convenient, I’d say. And this unexpected snippet:

At LaGeSo, the State Office for Health and Social Services in Berlin, where refugees go to be registered, both the chaos and the tensions among the estimated 1,500 people waiting for their number to be called – some of whom had been there for 35 days…

Only 1,500 in the State Office in the capital of Germany, Berlin? After a wait of 35 days? Shouldn’t there be, oh I don’t know, tens of thousands?

So I hope you can understand my mirth when I read that “Germany says it lost 130,000 refugees” (Business Insider Malaysia) or, better yet, 300,000 refugees according to The Times (“Germany’s 300,000 ‘lost’ refugees”) or, better yet still, 600,000 refugees (“Surprise: Germany Has No Clue Where at Least 600,000 Refugees From Terror Hot Spots Are Located”) from some conservative mob called Townhall. I await the breaking of the million-refugee barrier with the same kind of breathlessness with which test pilots once approached the sound barrier.

Sweden

We’re still in a bouncy mood, aren’t we? Let’s go to my favourite passive-aggressive fascist country and US collaborator, Sweden. Oh, what a shame. Pity the Swedes aren’t as particular as the Germans. This, from the New York Post:

Sweden welcomed more than 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, and nearly 40,000 in October of that year alone.

But those are the very figures I’m attempting to debunk, so that’s no help at all. In fact, Sweden is very big on anecdote, but short on hard local figures.

Okay, I know it’s Truth Revolt, but here’s what they say (“The Swedish Town Destroyed by ‘Refugee’ Crisis”):

The suburb Mölndal, a 20-minute tram ride from Sweden’s second largest city Gothenburg, welcomed with open arms more unaccompanied refugee “children” (under the age of 18) than anywhere else in the country – 4,041 added to a population of 63,000.

Refugees were shipped to Limedsforsen, not to settle but merely to have them stay somewhere while their applications were processed (“Refugees refusing to leave bus in ‘too cold’ Swedish village to be removed”). The number of refugees was a massive…60.

Admittedly ReliefWeb concentrates on children, but “Refugee influx weighs on Swedish towns” can only come up with “570 new young people who have arrived in the municipality this year” and “about 50 new arrivals who spent several months in the queue for Hässleholm ungdomscentrum, the ‘youth center’ where new arrivals between 16 and 20 years of age are sent to be prepared for secondary school.” Even if we triple those numbers to cater for parents, we’re still talking less than 2,000 people in total at a brand new refugee camp in southern Sweden.

What I like about the Swedish approach is that their newly-built refugee camps are all kilometres away from the nearest towns. Twenty kilometres from Stockholm, thirty kilometres from Malmö. Not exactly places where one could casually drop in and check on the official figures, are they? Let’s have a look at this report from the BBC:

Although they try to crop it well, it’s obvious that the “refugee camp” houses no more than fifty people. The presenter also makes obviously false statements. You can’t go anywhere in Södertälje without bumping into a migrant, he tells us. (Södertälje is thirty kilometres southwest of Stockholm, population approximately 75,000.) And he somehow conflates “migrants” with “refugees” (*), so he gets us thinking that all non-white people in Södertälje somehow ran away from oppression. (And where did this oppression come from? Ah, but that isn’t important.) What he doesn’t tell us is that Södertälje is predominantly Assyrian and they detest Muslims due to historical oppression. Hmmm. Not quite the Muslim melting pot that the presenter makes out, is it?

The representative from the Assyrian Federation of Sweden, Affram Yakoub, says at around 2:02 that some migrants were so disappointed with Sweden that they tried to go back. And, of course, one brown face looks very much like another (much as a Swede looks like a Dane looks like a German looks like a Belgian to me), so we can just take it for granted that one Assyrian speaks for all Syrians, Kurds and Iraqis as well. Why not?

Parallels has a heartwarming story, “In A Small Swedish Town, Residents Welcome Migrants” where the town of Ronneby (pop 30,000) has taken in “nearly 2,500 migrants” [my emphasis]. To be fair, Wikipedia states that Ronneby’s population is less than half that (12,029 as at 2010) but still, not even 2,500 refugees? Adding up all the numbers, where did the other 100,000+ disappear to? Maybe Germany knows.

Italy

All roads lead to Rome. Let’s see. (Italy was supposed to accept more than 80,000 refugees during 2015 alone, just so you know.)

From The Guardian (“Tensions run high in Rome’s suburbs as Italy struggles with migration crisis”), we read that:

more than a dozen police officers were injured in the [Roman] enclave as they fended off violent protesters demonstrating against the arrival of 19 migrants

That’s a big fat…nineteen.

In National Geographic’s “Amid Record Waves of Refugees, Italy Finding Limits to Its Compassion”, we see a line of “roughly 500 newcomers” but, if you count them, you come up with around thirty. I’ve seen bigger line-ups at Californian post offices. Even with the “African arrivals…wait to be registered” photo, you’ll notice that half the bunks are empty and the number of people in the photo are, again, around thirty to forty. This photo contradicts another one further down that talks about “Hundreds of African migrants await[ing] registration” in the very same town, Augusta (Sicily). As an exercise in perception, I counted the number of people in the photo and came to…about one hundred. You’ll note that all the photos you see are either closely cropped or irrelevant (like a scrap of paper or a child’s shoe). It’s a bit like those 1,500 people waiting in Berlin for more than a month.

Spain

Spain is an interesting case because it’s so close to north Africa. It should be teeming with refugees, especially from Nigeria and those regions.

El Pais, in “Spain will take in more refugees but says it is overwhelmed by petitions” is talking about maybe taking more than 2,749 for 2015:

Spain received 2,588 asylum claims in 2012, 4,513 in 2013 and 5,952 in 2014.

Later that same year, Fortune magazine (“In Spain, and all of Europe, cities open doors to refugees”) admitted that:

Spain said it could only accept 2,749 refugees of the 5,849 the EU had asked it to take, and last week Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría reiterated that the country was “very saturated” with immigrants.

Even The Local (Spain) admitted in April last year that “the actual number of people Spain has taken in is strikingly low – just 18 in the past six months.” Oops.

So if they aren’t in Germany or Spain or Sweden or France or Italy (and they sure as hell aren’t in Austria, Central Europe or Hungary), where are these millions of people?

Discussion

You can see that the overall refugee figures as reported in various newspapers are huge: 160,000 here, 1.4 million there, but when you break it down, to actually begin looking at where those people actually are, then the picture becomes, shall we say, less than clear-cut, just like those 400/600 people on a boat that can, in reality, only accommodate only around ninety.

What is going on here? Firstly, let me say that I’m not saying there are no refugees. Of course there are, there are countless videos of them streaming across Europe. But are there millions of them streaming across Europe? I say no.

As a thought exercise, just watch a stadium emptying. See how many people seem to pour out of every orifice? And that’s just 30-50,000 people. If you have a stadium full of people in mind, then when you look at the refugee videos again, you’ll realise that what you’re seeing is, at most, a few thousand. Not a hundred thousand. And certainly not a million. If only 1,500 people have been waiting for more than a month at an office in the German capital of Berlin to get their visa papers then, again, we’re not talking about hundreds of thousands of people flooding Germany. Yes, there are thousands. They may well include rapists and terrorists and other unsavoury characters (and I’m sure they do…probably all those “moderate rebels” we’ve been hearing about), but there aren’t millions of them.

Mobs like whathitthefan like to stir the hate with their YouTube video , “Visit a refugee camp in Sweden”, but the joke’s up before the two-minute mark when we see a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket waiting for a pair of “refugees”. If the Swedish authorities are so conciliatory towards Muslim refugees, why would they provide something that is so obviously haram (forbidden)? The filmmakers would have done equally well hanging a ham from the chandelier.

Surely if the crisis is as large as advertised, there would be nothing stopping an ambitious photographer from climbing a tower somewhere and taking photos of these hordes of people? But there aren’t any.

(Click to enlarge)

This photo from Liberty News purports to show a bunch of refugees in some European city. Notice the open space at the back of the crowd and to your left. And I did a rough count. Even including the obvious camera crews and interested bystanders, there were no more than four hundred, maybe four hundred and fifty, people in that crowd. Not even half a thousand. And may I commend to your viewing the march of government leaders after the Charlie Hebdo attack. What we saw:

What it actually was:

Okay okay, you say, I get it already. You have me half-convinced that there’s something fishy about the refugee picture. But why?

Well, let the speculation begin. I’m not privy to confidential government despatches. I can only deduce matters from what I see and read. This is what I’ve deduced.

The first thing that strikes me is that this is a masterful psyop and my hat’s off to the architects. Well done. What they’ve managed to do is simultaneously entrench two diametrically opposite views with the one series of events. The progressives hate the conservatives for being so unfeeling, and the conservatives hate the progressives for being so openly stupid. God forbid that everyone should band together and go after the real villains in the world: the oligarchs and bankers. Notice how they’re getting a free ride now? You can say, “the stock market movements make absolutely no sense, there’s something wrong”, and you’ll be told, “look at all those bloody refugees swarming into Europe like diseased rats”. You can say, “we should lobby to stop any bank being given a trillion-dollar bailout that we know they’ll misuse”, and you’ll be told, “what matters is what we do now, and we need to welcome refugees with open arms”.

In other words, the refugee crisis has essentially removed the “common ground” between groups. If you substitute “brown person” for the cat, and “clueless European population” for the pigeons, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

(*) I know that some people think that “refugee” is a racist term and that “migrant” should be used. But if a person is fleeing some kind of situation in their home country that they find unbearable, then I think the word “refugee” fits. And it’s not just for brown people. There are “refugees” from the USA who’ve settled in New Zealand, for example. They are escaping what they consider to be an intolerable situation in their homeland. They aren’t migrants. They’re refugees. Doesn’t matter what colour their skin is.

Copyright © KS Augustin, 2017

* If you liked this article, please consider the Paypal tipjar in the site’s sidebar. I’ll be trying to hit big issues in ways that may not be obvious twice a month, on the first and fifteenth, and every cent helps. Thank you.

Young #blood, #GermanShepherds and a quick review of #JihadisNextDoor

In my previous post, I made the comment that Zbigniew Bzrzenski probably died because he got cut off from the supply of young people’s blood that feeds the world’s supervillains. You may have thought that I was making a joke but science is with me on this one. In fact, science is so with me on this one that there’s even a startup, Ambrosia, built on this very model. The founder, a doctor trained at Stanford by the name of Jesse Karmazin, charges around US$8K for a blood transfusion from people under 25. Here’s the link to the article at Vanity Fair.

Continue reading Young #blood, #GermanShepherds and a quick review of #JihadisNextDoor

#Brzezinski and #IT darlings; postscript on #Macron

I was going to lead off with something else this month but the happy news of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s death popped up and, dear reader, I couldn’t restrain my delight. I am so happy the old fart is dead and should you think that that is less than respectful, I wish to share some of his quotes with you:

In the technotronic society the trend would seem to be towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities effectively exploiting the latest communications techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.

With the more endowed nations constrained by their own higher technological capacity for self-destruction as well as by self interest, war may have become a luxury that only the poor peoples of this world can afford.

It’s easier to kill a million people than it is to control a million people.

Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.

Continue reading #Brzezinski and #IT darlings; postscript on #Macron

#Review: What The Dog Knows (Cat Warren) #dogs

I love dogs. And I love reading about dogs. So when What the Dog Knows caught my eyes, I knew I had to buy it. A book about cadaver dogs? Colour me intrigued. And the first four plus pages of fulsome praise didn’t hurt:

  • “A beautifully written, fascinating, heartwarming, and oft-hilarious homage to working dogs”
  • “Warren writes with verve…”
  • “Fantastic…”
  • “A meaty fascinating tour…”

How could I resist? I bought the Touchstone trade paperback edition (2015).

Continue reading #Review: What The Dog Knows (Cat Warren) #dogs

#Millennials are the new 50s housewives #Manipulation #Gullibility

Do you remember the old days, dear reader, when soap operas interrupted the daily vacuuming at home? When you could sell more cigarettes by placing magazine ads telling the little ladies that only successful families contain smokers and how much sexier they were than non-smokers? When you could flog the latest brand of gin by showing smiling husbands with martini glasses in their hands?

In those days, it was well known that housewives were harmless, gullible creatures who could be swayed to buy your product in bulk if only you appealed to their looks/mood/status. Everybody knew that all the average housewife did was cook, clean, take a break to watch the afternoon soaps and pop pills:

Continue reading #Millennials are the new 50s housewives #Manipulation #Gullibility

A change of pace…making #bread…also #Trump & #WhoopsApocalypse

There’s so much of political interest happening in the world at the moment that, conversely, I find myself bereft of a coherent blog post. So I’ve decided to take a break and talk about a subject close to home. Bread.

We have a problem here in Malaysia and that is that everyone likes sweet bread. Yea, even unto the hamburger buns. It got so bad that, about nine years ago, we started scouring the shops and supermarkets for bread flour to start making our own.

Almost three years ago, I delegated and the kids were tasked with making the daily bread. They’ve done a good job. Mostly. However, I’ve noticed that their skills have been deteriorating recently. We were getting loaves that were completely flat on top, resembling more the topographical map of a rugged plain that the dome of a nicely risen loaf. I started calling those efforts “truck bread”, subtly implying that a lorry had run over them at some point, but it was obvious that Something needed to be done. We had to kick up our bread-making a notch and breathe new life into the daily dough.

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I stumbled across something called “Tartine Bread”. Tartine is a San Francisco bakery specialising in sourdough. While we were living in the Bay Area of the United States, we ate sourdough. Lots and lots and lots of sourdough. In fact, it was very much like it is here currently. Back then, I couldn’t find a non-sourdough loaf and now I can’t find a non-sweet loaf. Both have their place, but every day for breakfast isn’t one of them. I fell out of love with sourdough very quickly and only a decade later can I even bear to imagine eating such bread again.

Serendipity pointed me the way to the Tartine style of bread and I decided to give it a try.

The first step in making a sourdough is to cultivate a “sponge”, which is basically a fermented mixture of flour and water. You’re supposed to mix the flour and water together and leave it out–covered by a tea towel–for three to five days, in order to capture the local yeasts for fermentation duty. I gave it four days and the sponge was delightfully bubbly and smelling a bit like cheese. Then I hit every YouTube video and internet page I could find to finetune further instructions.

Before I go any further, I have to point out that nobody can masturbate like a North American. Instead of saying, “leave to hydrate”, they say “let it autolyse”. Instead of “mix flour and water in a 1:1 ratio”, they say “at 100% hydration”. There’s a lot of faffing about weights and softness and gentle movements, but I get it: the first time you do it, you’ve got to get it right, so masturbation it is.

I decided to go for 800g of flour at “75% hydration” (that’s 600g (or three-quarters by weight) of water, for all you non-NAmericans) and set to it. Pull and fold. Twist the bowl. Pull and fold. Twist the bowl. Rest. And again. Pull, fold, twist. Pull, fold, twist. Rest. Number 3. Rest. Number 4. Rest. Number 5. Rest. Number 6. Over a span of four hours, the dough transformed from a lumpy mess to a smooth stringy mess but was still very very sloppy. Still, it seemed to approximate what I’d seen in the videos, so I soldiered on.

After all the pulling, folding, twisting and resting (without all the twee wicker baskets with the cutely fitting linen interiors that seems to be an intrinsic part of Tartine masturbation), I formed my two loaves, heated up the oven to 200 Celsius (I have a hot oven) with my cast iron casserole in it and, at the nominated temperature, baked the bread. My timing was 20 mins initially, lid off, finish for another 20 minutes.

Wow! It came out wonderfully. Just like in those photos of rustic bread you see in cookbooks. (In fact, all the pictures of bread you see in this post have come from my own efforts.) I’ve been sold ever since. But I’ve made a couple of adjustments.

For one, I’m way too lazy to bake two loaves separately. I only have one cast-iron casserole you see. So I pressed a too-small Römertopf back into service. A Römertopf is a German clay vessel, glazed on the inside, and I’ve found that it’s perfect for baking this bread.

The other thing I’ve done is cut the hydration down to about 55%. You see, there’s so much humidity here in Malaysia that the flour has already absorbed quite a bit of moisture. Seventy-five per cent hydration may work in the dry SF region, but it’s too unworkable here at the Equator. Fifty-five per cent (give or take) seems about right.

The third thing is that I’ve changed the timing. It isn’t 20/20 (total 40 mins of baking) anymore, but 25/30 (total 55 mins of baking). This gives a lovely dark brown crust with a soft, chewy interior. (I’ve used 100% bread flour, 50/50 bread flour/plain flour, 50/50 bread flour/pau flour, 100% pau flour, 80/20 bread flour/wholewheat flour, and they’ve all turned out wonderfully. I’ll be trying some rye flour next…if I can still find it.)

The kids are in swot week/s at the moment, preparing for various exams, so I’ve taken on Bread Duty till they’re done. But once they are, I’ll be taking them through how to make a San Francisco sourdough…

Except it isn’t. No matter how often I leave my sponge out on the countertop, feeding it every few days with a fresh mixture of flour and water before popping it back into the refrigerator, it just isn’t sour. Smells wonderful, like homebrew beer, but the sourness just doesn’t come out in the bread. J thinks it’s because the locals like sugar in everything so much, the very air is sweet!

Wouldn’t you know it? Right when I’m prepared to confront sourdough again, I can’t make it. Story of my life.

PS: I haven’t given any links to recipes because, really, there are so many variations and recipes for Tartine-type loaves and you have to do your own experimentation to find the best combination for your own locality. Search for them and you’ll find a plethora soon enough. Good luck.

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Nope, couldn’t stay away from politics.

I’ve been a subscriber to Professor Immanuel Wallerstein’s commentaries for a fair few years now and his latest (No. 447, “Trump’s Foreign Policy: Incoherent or Unpredictable?“) talks about Donald Trump’s unpredictability. I think Wallerstein is correct when he comments on the US domestic situation:

If one puts oneself in Trump’s shoes, the picture might be very different. First of all, if I Trump am unpredictable, I have some extra strength in my position, since the others may try to accommodate in advance what they think is my position.

In addition the incoherence of my position is a way of gauging what is the position that will best serve my interests, which is to increase my power within and outside the United States. Maintaining my personal position and secondarily that of the United States is my primary goal. I do not have and do not want to have a “vision” or long-term commitment. I am not an ideologue but a person who seeks a position of dominance.

However, I think he is incorrect when he applies that strategy to the Rest of the World:

Now let us shift to the perspective of that of the majority of the world’s population who are not Trump supporters. Indeed, the majority fear Trump’s “incoherence” since, as president of the United States, he controls the U.S. military and its terrible weaponry. We, the majority, fear that he is not in control of himself. We fear that he is egoistic and very thin-skinned, and may launch irreversible actions in a moment of pique.

I don’t think the Rest of the World “fears” Trump’s “incoherence”. I think the rest of us hold it in contempt. Trump is just the latest in a long line of incompetents, from Lyndon B Johnson who interfered with the Kennedy murder investigation; Richard Nixon who escalated the pointless war in Vietnam and let his creature, Henry Kissinger, go on genocidal ego-trips across the globe; bumbling Gerald Ford who never read his speeches before he spoke them; Jimmy Carter, who let the Iran hostage crisis get away from him, buoyed by incompetent intelligence; senile Ronald Reagan who could talk a good game but much preferred long naps; George HW Bush, who needed to be reassured on every major decision by his pals and wouldn’t have got anywhere without the influence (and rolodex) of his daddy; Bill Clinton who dismantled Glass-Steagall; George W Bush who thought the presidency was a lark; Barack Obama who lied to everybody’s face at every available opportunity…and now Trump.

After the “stellar” line-up we’ve had so far, Trump isn’t clever like a fox. He’s pitiable like all the others that came before him. But Wallerstein tries to persuade us otherwise, in a kinda loopily optimistic way:

As far as I can tell, both the resistance campaigns and the efforts of other major world powers [to affect Trump’s actual decisions] have indeed had an effect, and have led him at various points to modify his position. I think they have a fair chance of keeping the United States from too much involvement in the Middle Eastern quagmire. Too much is not zero. But reducing the involvement is better than nothing at all.

The reason that these efforts to force a modification of his position is precisely because he does not have a firm commitment to anything. His unpredictability is the sole weapon the rest of us have against Trump the warrior. To make him less unpredictable means to make him less open to change. In a way, it would doom us.

Here, Wallerstein makes two mistakes. One, he conflates unpredictability with incoherence. They are not interchangeable. Look at George W Bush, for example, who was incoherent and yet predictable. (In fact, the only thing unpredictable about Bush is how he’s become the N American Left’s new darling! Come to think of it, that’s incoherent as well.) The second mistake is to assume that predictability is predicated on inflexibility. Again, you can have a predictable approach that is, at the same time, open and flexible. In fact, that may even be the best behaviour one can imagine for a world leader: to be predictably both open and flexible. Predictability and flexibility, in other words, are not mutually exclusive.

(This imprecision is not usually a hallmark of Wallerstein’s essays, so I’m hoping that he’s okay and was only under the deadline gun this week.)

I disagree that Trump’s eventual military impotence will be due to his basic empty-headedness. In my opinion, Trump’s eventual military impotence (and the ongoing disintegration of the United States of America) will be due to the woefully sub-standard level of United States military resourcing, staffing, training and deployment, a dismal standard that will take more than a decade to turn around, if the country ever has the opportunity and, more importantly, the will to do so. And that, for the rest of us, is the most optimistic message of all.

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Last night I introduced J to a UK satirical series made in 1982 that I enjoyed thoroughly in my youth. Enjoyed so much, in fact, that I bought the video. I’m talking, of course, of “Whoops Apocalypse” (the series, not the movie). While some of it has dated, the mood and machinations are spot-on: the misery of whomever is the latest puppet of Western powers (in this case, the Shah of Iran’s brother); the hypocrisy of the French, who kick the Shah’s brother out of asylum in France because they want to sell a nuclear reactor to Iran; the idiocy of the United States President; the cunning, ageing Politbureau and constant surveillance of the (then) Soviet Union. Even the Jackal (known here as L’Acrobat and played with understated glee by John Cleese) makes an appearance. Barry Morse is masterful as Johnny Cyclops, a riff off Ronald Reagan, right down to the assassination attempt, and John Barron is superb as maniac Deacon, the conniving, manipulative, overtly Christian Secretary of Defence who is the real power within the Oval Office (“If the Lord had meant us to be sensible, He wouldn’t have given us credit cards.”)

Whatever you’re thinking about the political situation at the moment, know that we’ve been here before, and not that long ago. “Whoops Apocalypse” is evidence of this…I just hope we don’t follow the series to its logical conclusion. Enjoy.

UPDATE: In case what I tried (embedding a video) didn’t work, go here. Set aside two and a half hours and really do enjoy.

Copyright © KS Augustin, 2017

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